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14 Beautiful Towns & Cities Near Paris That Are Worth Visiting

Want to explore some towns and cities near Paris ? From artsy towns and beautiful hamlets to historical and architectural cities, this article has them all.

Paris is not only the capital of France but also the most famous and most visited city in the country too.

The city of love , art, impressive architecture, and elegance, there is so much that makes Paris one of the most beautiful cities in Europe .

Mont Saint-Michel is one of the easy day trips from Paris by train

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While there are so many things to do in Paris , sometimes you just want to get away from the hustle and bustle of this magnetic city and explore other places.

Whether you want to go on a day trip or a weekend trip from Paris , there are so many charming and cute cities near Paris that will leave you wondering why you haven’t explored them yet.

Right from Chantilly which is one of the closest cities to Paris to Normandy which is approximately 3 hours away, here is a list of 14 beautiful cities close to Paris that are worth visiting and I guarantee, they’ll leave you spellbound.

I’ve also included some fun facts and unique bits of information so be sure to read those as well.

Before You Go, Here’s How to Plan Your Visit To Paris: Practical Quick Tips

WHERE TO STAY Best Eiffel Tower Views:  Hôtel Le Walt  (9.0) Luxury stay:  Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel  (8.2) Mid-range stay:  Hôtel Eiffel  (8.7) Budget Stay:  People – Paris Bercy  (8.9) Apartment Rental:  Résidence Charles Floquet  (9.1)  

BEST GUIDED TOURS Louvre Museum guided tour : (4.5/5) Seine River Dinner Cruise : (4.7/5) Montmartre Walking Tour : (4.8/5) Le Marais Walking Food Tour : (4.5/5) Versailles Guided Tour : (4.8/5) Eiffel Tower Guided Tour : (4.4/5) 

  • Considering travel insurance for your trip? World Nomads offers coverage for more than 150 adventure activities as well as emergency medical, lost luggage, trip cancellation, and more.
  • Prepare your trip extensively with this Paris Travel guidebook .
  • Don’t forget a universal travel adapter , a travel neck pouch , and comfortable walking shoes .
  • Consider getting either the museum pass or the Paris city pass if you plan to visit many attractions. The city pass comes with free transportation and access to the hop-on-hop-off bus. You can read my Paris museum pass review to see if it’s right for you.
  • Book this private transfer from CDG airport to Paris to avoid the hustle of figuring out how to get to Paris.

Psst… Unfortunately, things can and do go wrong when you travel. World Nomads offers coverage for more than 150 activities as well as emergency medical, lost luggage, trip cancellation, and more. If you’re considering travel insurance for your trip, check out World Nomads .

Stunning Towns & Cities Near Paris, France

For convenience’s sake, I have listed the French cities near Paris from closest to farthest though they may not necessarily be in the same direction.

1. Chantilly

Chantilly is one of the towns near Paris

  • Travel time: 25 mins from Gare du Nord by train or 40 mins if you rent a car and drive to Chantilly .
  • Where to stay in Chantilly: Budget hotel (2 stars)| Mid-range Hotel (Bed & Breakfast)| Luxury Hotel (5 stars).

Famously known because of an opulent Château which takes on the same name as the city, Chantilly is the nearest city to Paris!

Though Château de Chantilly is usually thought of as just one castle, it is in fact made of 2 Châteaux – the Petit Château and the Grand Château which together form the Domaine de Chantilly.

The entire Domaine houses several museums including the Living Museum of the Horse or Musée du Cheval , Musée Condé , Musée de la Dentelle , Great Stables or the Grandes Ecuries (which are the largest horse stables in Europe), and the immaculately maintained gardens.

Besides the castle, you can also marvel at the Church of Notre Dame of Chantilly which you can find near the Great Stables of Domaine de Chantilly.

If a long walk surrounded by nature is what you long for, look no further than the Chantilly Forest.

While in this beautiful town, don’t forget to try the eponymous French Chantilly Cream (Crème Chantilly) which has influenced the whipped cream business all around France. In fact, whipped cream is referred to as creme chantilly or just la chantilly everywhere in the country.

Before your trip, be sure to buy this Château de Chantilly skip-the-line ticket to enjoy your visit without waiting in line for long.

2. Versailles

Versailles is one of the towns near Paris

  • Travel time: Paris to Versailles will take you 40 mins to 1 hour by train .
  • Where to stay in Versailles: Budget hotel (2 stars) | Mid-range Hotel (Apartment)| Luxury Hotel (5 stars).

One of the easy day trips from Paris you should take is to the town of Versailles which is home to the opulent Château de Versailles or Palace of Versailles, a former residence of King Louis XIV and the former seat of the French Government.

While there, be sure to check out the Hall of Mirrors , the Grand Chapel , Marie Antoinette’s bedroom , Le Grand Perspective for the best view of Versailles, Galerie des Carrosses or Gallery of Coaches in the Great Stables, and the dazzling and beautiful gardens of Versailles .

The grounds and the place’s park also house some architectural marvels of the Grand Trianon and the Petit Trianon .

The Queen’s Hamlet or The Hameau de la Reine is another beauty in the Palace park that was built especially for Marie Antoinette as an escape place to get away from it all.

If watching an opera, orchestra, or ballet performance is on your bucket list, then you’ll be glad to know that the Royal Opera of Versailles is located here as well. Dress up like royalty and attend a show at night.

While in the town, I’d also recommend checking out the Versailles Market to try out a wide range of French foods like baguettes, crêpes, and cheese but if organic food is what you prefer, then the Jussieu-Montreuil market is the place you’ll want to explore.

You can also admire the architectural beauty of Notre Dame de Versailles before you leave this historical town.

To visit Versailles, you can either go on your own by purchasing this skip-the-line ticket that comes with an audio guide or book this guided tour if you want to learn about the history of the palace from a knowledgeable tour guide.

Not sure how to get to this opulent castle? You can read my detailed guide on how to get from Paris to Versailles .

3. Fontainebleau

Fontainebleau is one of the cities near Paris

  • Travel time: A 45 mins to 1-hour train ride from Paris departing from Gare de Lyon .
  • Where to stay in Fontainebleau: Budget hotel (3 stars) | Mid-range Hotel (3 stars) | Luxury Hotel (4 stars).

Since I’ve mentioned Versailles, I should also add the lesser crowded alternative; the gorgeous Château de Fontainebleau located in the beautiful town of Fontainebleau.

Besides its grandeur architecture and the famous Horseshoe staircase, this UNESCO-listed site houses Marie Antoinette’s bed and Napoleon’s throne among other royal artifacts.

The castle is also surrounded by beautiful gardens which take on different designs including the French formal garden style and the French landscape garden.

If you’re a history buff, then the Napoleon Museum of History and Art and the Obelisk of Marie Antoinette will fascinate you.

What makes this castle even more special is that it’s the only château to have been continuously inhabited for 7 centuries by the French royal families with each royal family adding its unique taste and architectural design to what we see today. It is the only château in France to have this honor.

Hikers, picnic goers, and equestrians will be delighted with the scenic Fontainebleau Forest and its offerings.

Psst… Purchase this Fontainebleau entry ticket in advance to make your visit easier.

Lille is one of the cities near Paris

  • Travel time: 1-hour train ride from Gare du Nord or more than a 2-hour drive by car .
  • Where to stay in Lille: Budget hotel (3 stars) | Mid-range Hotel (3 stars) | Luxury Hotel (Apartment).

Located just 1 hour away from Paris and at the Border of Belgium, Lille is one of the beautiful cities near Paris that has a mixture of both French and Flemish cultures and languages.

The bustling city center, the beautiful French and Dutch-inspired architecture, and the thriving nightlife all make the city of Lille a cultural hub perfect for both youngsters and history nerds.

The highlight of course is the old town that has a Flemish touch. From the 18th-century houses, cobblestone streets, and baroque buildings, Old Lille will definitely grab your attention.

Stroll around its main square known as the Grand Place to either people watch, rub shoulders with the locals, or even admire the Colonne de la Déesse (The Column of the Goddess).

Some of the other places worth visiting while in Lille include;   Maison Natale Charles de Gaulle which is the birthplace of Charles de Gaulle, a former President of France who played a huge role in shaping the history of the country, La Maison Meert to taste the traditional thin-waffle delicacy, Le Palais Des Beaux Arts De Lille which is one of the largest museums in France dedicated to art and antiquities, Citadelle de Lille to learn about the history of the city and so many others.

Since it’s near, it can easily be treated as a day trip from Paris but if you prefer to sleep there, I recommend staying at this hotel .

And while you can visit independently, I recommend booking this 2-hour guided walking tour that will take you through all the major highlights of the city especially if you’re just visiting for a day.

5. Auvers-Sur-Oise

Auvers-Sur-Oise is one of the cities close to Paris

  • Travel time: 1 hour by train departing from Gare du Nord .
  • Where to stay in Auvers-Sur-Oise: Budget hotel (Bed & Breakfast) | Mid-range Hotel (4 stars) | Luxury Hotel (Bed & Breakfast).

This small and underrated hamlet caught the fancy of none other than the famous artist, Vincent Van Gogh , who lived here for a couple of months before his death. Actually, it is also his and his brother’s resting place.

Château d’Auvers , which is located close to the station, is a 19th-century palace that looks magnificent and is worth checking out.

The église d’Auvers or the Church at Auvers is also another attraction depicted beautifully in Van Gogh’s painting of the same name.

To get your spirits up, quite literally, you can visit the only absinthe museum in the world located in Auvers at the Musée de l’Absinthe . Right from its history to abuse to actually tasting it (if you can risk it), you can experience it all.

Giverny is one of the closest cities to Paris

  • Travel time: A 1-hour drive by car or 2 hours 30 mins by train will get you from Paris to Giverny.
  • Where to stay in Giverny: Budget hotel (Bed & Breakfast) | Mid-range Hotel (Holiday home) | Luxury Hotel (Guest house).

This quaint village is famous because Claude Monet lived here for over 4 decades and died here as well. The picturesque surroundings are probably what draws aesthetes here and inspires them.

For example, the Giverny Gardens with the iconic water lily pond and Japanese bridge are what inspired some of Monet’s most famous paintings .

Art lovers can also check out the Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny or Museum of Impressionism Giverny which as the name suggests is dedicated to the art and history of Impressionism.

You can check out my detailed guide on how to plan a day trip to Giverny from Paris to know exactly what to expect.

But if you don’t feel like planning the visit on your own, you can book this day trip guided tour that comes with a professional guide .

This tour will transport you from Paris to Giverny (since there is no direct public transport between the 2 places) and then the tour guide will take you all around the museum and the gardens while telling you about the history of the place and the famous painter.

7. Chartres

Chartres is one of the easy day trips from Paris by train

  • Travel time: 50 mins drive by car and 1 hour by train .
  • Where to stay in Chartres: Budget hotel (2 stars) | Mid-range Hotel (Apartment)| Luxury Hotel (4 stars).

Chartres is most famous for the Notre-Dame de Chartres Cathedral which is not only a UNESCO World Heritage site but also one of the best-preserved cathedrals from the 13 th century.

The two differently built and decorated spires on the exterior with its Gothic art and stained glass windows on the interior are what will grab your attention when you visit the cathedral.

Do not miss the Chartres Light Show or Chartres En Lumieres if you visit between the end of April to mid-October. Once it’s nightfall, 25 buildings across Chartres, including Notre-Dame de Chartres, illuminate with impressive light shows.

Another unique charm of this town is Maison Picassiette , which is a short bus ride away. Raymond Isidore the man who built this house used different bits and materials to decorate it.

You will be fascinated to find everything from glass shards to pieces of wood to bottle caps used in a creative manner.

Plus, the sculpture garden behind his cottage has mosaic replicas of stained-glass windows of Notre Dame de Chartres, an old windmill, and even the Eiffel Tower .

Provins is one of the cities close to Paris

  • Travel time: 1 hour 30 mins from Gare de l’Est by train .
  • Where to stay in Provins: Budget hotel (Apartment) | Mid-range Hotel (3 stars) | Luxury Hotel (Bed & Breakfast).

The town of Provins is another UNESCO World Heritage site that you should visit if you want to be transported back in time.

Everything about it screams medieval and dates back centuries like the 12th-century medieval tower, Tour César , or the medieval tunnels, Les Souterrains de Provins .

The city also holds a medieval Christmas market annually which you can visit if you go around Christmastime .

The town itself is pretty laidback but it does have medieval shows that you can watch like knights performing with horses and falconry.

You can also visit or attend mass at Saint-Quiriace Collegiate Church , a church where Joan of Arc attended mass.

One of the other interesting things to do in Provins is to walk up Saint-Jean’s Gate and climb the medieval ramparts.

Though some of the walls are no longer there, the few that exist are well maintained so you’ll be able to enjoy the construction that dates back to the 12th century.

Amiens is one of the cities near Paris

  • Travel time: A 1 hour 20 mins train journey from Gare du Nord to Amiens .
  • Where to stay in Amiens: Budget hotel (2 stars) | Mid-range Hotel (Apartment) | Luxury Hotel (4 stars).

Situated in the northern region of France, Amiens is one of the cutest cities near Paris.

The Amiens Cathedral or Cathédrale Notre-Dame d’Amiens which is the most famous attraction in the city is also the largest cathedral in France.

This UNESCO site which stands tall at over 42 meters (137 feet) will mesmerize you with its intricate façade, oak choir stalls, and gothic carvings.

If you’re a bibliophile and know of Jules Verne or have read his books, then you should also know that he spent a big part of his life in this city specifically in Maison de Jules Verne which now houses models of innovations and the Winter Garden.

For fine art lovers, the Musée de Picardie will amaze you. It includes artifacts and masterpieces right from the prehistoric era.

Also, the Quartier Saint-Leu, a medieval quarter in Amiens will have you exploring and trying out different restaurants, cafés, and boutiques.

10. Strasbourg

Strasbourg is one of the cities close to Paris

  • Travel time: 2 hours from Gare de l’Est by train .
  • Where to stay in Strasbourg: Budget hotel (2 stars) | Mid-range Hotel (Apartment) | Luxury Hotel (4 stars).

Apart from being a poster town for the Christmas Market or Marché de Noel, Strasbourg offers so much more.

For example, the Saint-Pierre Le Jeune Church has a unique history that you may not know about. Until recently, neither did I.

This neo-Romanesque church started off as a Catholic church and was converted to a Protestant one.

Later on, for nearly 2 centuries, it was split among the Protestants and the Catholics by a dividing wall inside.

In 1898, the New Saint-Pierre Le Jeune Church was constructed and the Catholic congregation moved there and the wall was taken down. It is now back to being a Protestant church.

Then there’s the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg with its beautiful Gothic architecture in red sandstone and stained glass windows from the 12 th and 13 th centuries.

Even Strasbourg’s historical centre, the Grande-Île district, is a UNESCO-listed site. Beyond the impressive architecture that portrays both the German and French styles, there is so much to do and see in Strasbourg.

From Place Kleber , a beautiful square, Palais Rohan a beautiful palace near Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg to Petite France which is the most beautiful place in the city with its colorful half-timbered houses lined along the river.

With all this beauty, it’s not hard to see why Strasbourg is one of the most beautiful cities near Paris to visit.

To make your visit to Strasbourg smooth, you can pre-book your activities in advance to be guaranteed a spot.

You can either book this Strasbourg guided tour by Segway if you want to discover the city in style or this Strasbourg city center guided bike tour with a local to get the most out of your visit.

11. Chablis

Chablis is one of the closest cities to Paris

  • Travel time: 2 hours’ drive by car from Paris will get you to Chablis or around 3 hours by train.
  • Where to stay in Chablis: Budget hotel (Apartment) | Mid-range Hotel (3 stars) | Luxury Hotel (Holiday Home).

Located in the region of Burgundy, this medieval town of Chablis is well known for growing Chardonnay grapes and hence known for its wineries.

Besides learning about the whole winemaking process, you can visit the 9th-century Obédiencerie monastery where the monks, the Canons of Saint Martin of Tours, honed the craft of winemaking which eventually led to the white wine of the Chablis region.

Other notable things to do that make Chablis worth visiting include visiting Saint-Pierre and Saint-Martin churches , admiring the beautiful old town, and ofcourse visiting the various vineyards.

In brief, Chablis is one of the towns near Paris perfect for wine lovers!

12. Loire Valley

Loire Valley is one of the towns near Paris

  • Travel time: To get to the Loire Valley region, you will have to rent a car and it takes about 2 hours 15 mins or 1 hour 30 mins by train.
  • Where to stay in Tours: Budget hotel (1 star) | Mid-range Hotel (2 stars) | Luxury Hotel (Apartment).

Loire Valley is one of the best regions to savor your wine. Where are the oenophiles at? Besides that, it also has the largest concentration of châteaux in France .

Here, even some of the châteaux have their own vineyards so if you like castles, adore your “Vin” time, and want to feel like royalty while you’re at it, this is the ideal place to go.

Some of the famous châteaux worth visiting include Château de Chambord , Château de Amboise , Château Royal de Blois , Château de Chenonceau and so many others.

And when you’re not drinking amazing wine or getting lost in one of the Loire Castles, take a tour of Tours, a picturesque town located between two rivers (Cher and Loire).

You can immerse yourself in art at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Tours which houses masterpieces by Monet and Rembrandt.

Here are some of the entry tickets to the famous castles you shouldn’t miss while in the region.

  • Skip-the-line ticket for Château de Chambord
  • Priority entrance ticket to Chenonceau Castle
  • Château Royal d’Amboise Entrance Ticket
  • Chateau de Blois Entry Ticket

Alternatively, you can just book this full-day Loire Valley guided tour that will take you through 3 of the above castles including wine tasting and a transfer from Paris if you don’t want to plan anything.

Colmar is one of the beautiful cities near Paris

  • Travel time: 2 hours 30 mins by train or 5 hours by car from Gare de l’Est .
  • Where to stay in Colmar: Budget hotel (2 stars) | Mid-range Hotel (4 stars) | Luxury Hotel (2 stars).

Colmar is one of those cities near Paris that looks like it came out of a picture postcard.

This idyllic town with its bucolic setting will transport you back in time. The old town with its intricate, cobblestone pathways, timber-framed, colorful houses, and medieval buildings will charm their way into your heart the minute you set foot in the town.

What’s more, you ask? Well, it lies on the Alsace wine tour route along with other smaller villages in the vicinity.

If riding in a boat through the canals of Venice was on your bucket list of things to do but the crowds put you off, Colmar offers a less crowded alternative in Little Venice .

The canal area with its two dreamy bridges albeit small will offer you just as much if not a more scenic and romantic setting.

If you happen to be here around Christmas, then the Les Marchés de Noel are worth staying for.

One of the other things not to miss out on is this 2-hour Segway tour of Colmar to get a glimpse of this beautiful city in style.

14.  Normandy

Normandy is one of the closest cities to Paris

  • Travel time: A 2 hour 45 mins drive by car and around 2 hours 30 mins by train.

Located along the English Channel, Normandy is one of the cities close to Paris that sits on years of history (and terror in some instances)!

What sets Normandy apart compared to other closest cities to Paris is that it has a little bit of everything!

You can find stunning beaches to relax on, impressive natural landmarks and human-made monuments , castles, and museums to get lost in history, and small towns and villages to connect with the locals.

Visit the town of Étretat to the North of Normandy to enjoy a cliffside picnic while enjoying the breathtaking view of the English Channel or admire the beauty of the white chalk cliffs.

The famous D-Day beaches out of which Omaha beach is the most popular is a 1 hour 30 mins drive from Normandy if you fancy some sunbathing while learning more history about the D-day landing.

Another site worth making a trip to is the Mont Saint-Michel , a UNESCO World Heritage Site, whose abbey rises to 100m (328 ft.) tall. (Make sure you buy this entry ticket to Mont Sant Michel in advance .)

But beware, during high tide, it becomes an island accessible only by one road. The Abbey has 350 steps to the highest point but the view from there is worth the effort.

You can also explore the Museum of the Battle of Normandy to learn more about WWII, wander around Honfleur , chill on the beaches of Deauville , or visit Château de Fontaine-Henry which is the most beautiful castle in Normandy.

If you don’t want to plan a thing, you can opt for one of these tours below.

  • D-Day Landing beaches day tour with transfer and lunch
  • Mont Saint-Michel full-day guided tour

Final Thoughts on the Closest Cities to Paris

I hope you liked my picks of the best cities close to Paris. Of course, it’s none-exhaustive but I’d add more as explore other towns near Paris.

Let me know which of these cities around Paris you have visited or plan on visiting.

NEVER TRAVEL TO PARIS WITHOUT TRAVEL INSURANCE One of the biggest mistakes you’ll ever make when planning a trip to Paris is to forego Travel Insurance ! You might think that it’s expensive, but when you think of how much it will save you when you lose your valuables or even get sick, then you’ll know that it’s NOT that expensive! Unfortunately, things can and do go wrong when you travel. World Nomads offers coverage for more than 150 activities as well as emergency medical, lost luggage, trip cancellation, and more. If you’re considering travel insurance for your trip, check out World Nomads .

Check out these posts to help you plan your trip to Paris

  • Nontouristy things to do in Paris
  • Stunning views from the Eiffel Tower
  • How to plan a perfect picnic in Paris
  • Big mistakes to avoid while traveling in Paris
  • Things to know before traveling to Paris
  • Skip the lines tickets for popular Paris attractions
  • Best Hotels in Paris with Eiffel tower views
  • Things to do in Paris at night
  • How to skip the long lines in Paris
  • Best places to get stunning views of the Eiffel Tower

Was this post on the best towns and cities around Paris helpful? Then please consider sharing it with others.

Are you looking for small towns and the cutest cities near Paris to visit? this post will give you all the closest cities to Paris that are worth visiting on either a day or weekend trip.| nearest cities to Paris| cities around Paris| closest city to Paris| cities near Paris, France| French cities near Paris| day trips from Paris| weekend trips from Paris| small villages near Paris| Small towns near Paris.

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Esther is the face and voice behind Dreams in Paris! She has always been obsessed with Paris even before she moved there. She has lived in Paris for a couple of years, and that obsession has not changed! That love for Paris, plus her passion for writing led to the birth of Dreams in Paris! She now shares all the practical tips and guides she’s picked along the way to help you plan a memorable trip to the city of love! You can learn more about her here !

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Best places to visit in france.

France is home to some of the most lively cities, bucolic villages and renowned wine regions on the globe. U.S. News considered factors like variety of attractions, lodging, weather and culinary scenes to create this ranking of the best places to visit in France. Whether you're seeking an action-packed sightseeing adventure or a relaxing wine retreat, you'll find a fun French vacation here. To influence next year's ranking, vote below for your favorite destinations in France.

Mont Saint-Michel

Montpellier, french alps, chamonix-mont-blanc, aix-en-provence, loire valley.

cities to visit near france

As the world's best place to visit , it's no surprise that the electrifying City of Light tops this list. France's capital city is a year-round tourist destination with iconic attractions like the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower and incredible architecture (think: the dazzling Basilique du Sacré-Coeur). Not to mention, Paris offers unparalleled dining and shopping scenes and more museums than you could hope to visit in one trip. Keep in mind, Paris is often flooded with tourists and room rates can be pricey. If you're looking for a deal, travel in winter or early spring.

cities to visit near france

The capital of the Alsace region offers the perfect mix of French and German culture thanks to its location on the France-Germany border. While here, travelers should see Strasbourg's Gothic-style cathedral and stroll through the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Petite France quarter with its half-timbered houses and postcard-worthy waterways. Plus, those with an interest in politics can tour several important European institutions during their visit, including the European Parliament and the Council of Europe. For an extra dose of charm, arrive in December to see one of Europe's oldest Christmas markets.

cities to visit near france

Rising above the sea like a castle in a fairy tale, Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy is one of France's most-visited sights. Legend says the archangel Michael, the island's namesake, repeatedly appeared to Bishop Aubert of Avranches in dreams, telling him to build a church on top of the island in A.D. 708. Since its completion, it has become an important pilgrimage site for Christians and European intellectuals. Visitors can tour the picturesque abbey and admire its incredible medieval architecture or wander its surrounding streets, which are lined with tiny shops and quaint cafes.

cities to visit near france

Dubbed La Ville Rose due to the prominence of distinctive clay bricks in its architecture, Toulouse is a feast for the eyes. Throughout this city, which is located in the South of France, you'll find marvels like the neoclassical Le Capitole on the main square, the stately Basilica of Saint-Sernin (an 11th-century UNESCO site) and the Hôtel d’Assézat, which houses a noteworthy art gallery. What's more, several canals with shady footpaths pass through the city, including the idyllic Canal du Midi. For some of the best views of Toulouse, take a cruise on the River Garonne, or just sunbathe on its banks.

cities to visit near france

Sunny Montpellier glows with a combination of old world charm and a trendy university lifestyle. This city in the south of France evokes Parisian appeal with Haussmann architecture and stylish promenades. And like Paris, adornment is everywhere in Montpellier, from fashionable boutiques to street art to France's oldest botanical garden. Plus, since Montpellier is located 7 miles from the coast of the Mediterranean, a beach break is close at hand. Once the sun sets, take part in the city's youthful nightlife scene, which includes everything from music halls to dance clubs.

cities to visit near france

It's easy to see why Colmar, located in the heart of Alsace's wine region, is considered one of France's most beautiful cities. Colorful houses that look as if they belong in a fairy tale line the Little Venice district, where you can take a boat tour through Colmar's canals or reach boutiques and eateries on foot. The setting is picturesque regardless of when you vacation here, but for even more charm, visit Colmar at night when lights illuminate the city during annual events like the Colmar International Festival, Alsace's wine fair and Colmar's Christmas market.

cities to visit near france

To see some of France's most spectacular art and architecture, head to Avignon. This city in southeastern France is full of stunning structures, including the 14th-century Palais des Papes, the largest Gothic palace in the world, and the arched bridge, Pont d'Avignon. A number of can't-miss museums are spread throughout Avignon as well, such as the Musée Angladon, which houses works by highly regarded artists like Edgar Degas, Pablo Picasso and Vincent Van Gogh. Visit in July to attend the Festival d'Avignon, one of the world's largest performing arts festivals.

cities to visit near france

If your ideal French vacation involves a little more nature and a little less city, head to the French Alps . Here, you'll find some of the best ski slopes in Europe, as well as beautiful scenery that rivals any work of art or architecture. In summer, the typically snow-covered mountains thaw just enough to create perfect conditions for hiking and biking. Enchanting villages sit at the base of the range, offering several places to unwind when you've had enough fun on the slopes or trails.

cities to visit near france

Despite its war-filled past, this region in northern France is also a place of great beauty and culture. Étretat's white cliffs are a great place to take in the area's natural scenery. Then, visit the region's capital city, Rouen, to admire works of art at the Musée des Beaux-Arts and stroll past the quaint half-timbered houses. Be sure to sample some of the city's culinary specialties to see why it is now a UNESCO City of Gastronomy. Or, see some of the remnants of Normandy's heavy history at the D-Day Landing Beaches and The Bayeux Tapestry.

cities to visit near france

Glamorous Nice occupies a picturesque spot along the French Riviera. Beach bums and culture hounds alike will enjoy the city's pebbly shores, engaging museums, boutique shops and Baroque-style palaces. Be sure to stroll along the coastline's Promenade des Anglais and pick up some fresh flowers and produce at the vibrant Cours Saleya market, located in old town. You'll likely spend a pretty penny on lodging and beach access, but experiencing Nice is worth it. To save some coin, travel between mid-March and April or from September to October, the area's shoulder seasons.

cities to visit near france

Often called "France's Isle of Beauty," Corsica features diverse landscapes and a unique culture that make it seem like a miniature continent. The Mediterranean island's clear blue water and white sand beaches are ideal for sunbathing, snorkeling and kayaking, while its mountainous terrain and dense forests provide ample opportunities to hike trails like the highly regarded (albeit challenging) GR20. Those looking to take in some history can visit the Maison Bonaparte museum to see Napoleon's birthplace. What's more, Corsica offers a one-of-a-kind food scene that showcases various local delicacies, such as lonzu (dry-cured ham) and brocciu (cheese).

cities to visit near france

While it may not be as well known as big-name cities like Paris, Lyon competes with the best of them. Despite being the third-largest city in France, Lyon is much calmer and less touristy than other similarly sized destinations. The streets are filled with public art, including the city's famous trompe l'oeil murals, and there are museums that focus on everything from movies to history. Plus, it's surrounded by hundreds of wineries and home to 4,000-plus restaurants, several of which boast Michelin stars, making it especially appealing to oenophiles and foodies.

cities to visit near france

If you love to ski, chances are you'll enjoy shredding powder at Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Europe. In the bustling Chamonix (the main place to stay if you want to ski at Mont Blanc), you'll have easy access to the longest off-piste run in the world (Vallée Blanche) and rugged, challenging slopes. But this destination, which hosted the 1924 Winter Olympics, offers more than just top-notch skiing. Chamonix is also a great place to go hiking, mountain biking and whitewater rafting. For some family-friendly fun, visit the town's adventure park to zip down its Alpine coaster and various slides.

cities to visit near france

Quaint, charming Aix-en-Provence is a university city known for its tree-lined boulevards, cute cafes and lively markets. Life moves at a more leisurely pace here than in other French cities, meaning it's the perfect place for travelers to get lost in the scenic streets. Make sure to add Cathédrale Saint-Sauveur and Le Grand Marché – two of the city's top attractions – to your itinerary. You can also see where artist Paul Cézanne (an Aix-en-Provence native) painted some of his masterpieces at Atelier de Cezanne, or venture outside of the city to see the Provencal scenes that inspired him.

cities to visit near france

Vincent Van Gogh fans may recognize the streetscapes of Arles: This small city in Provence inspired some of the artist's best-known works with its bright colors and rustic feel. Art aficionados can walk in Van Gogh's footsteps and explore his favorite haunts on a walking tour through this romantic city or visit the Fondation Vincent Van Gogh Arles. Beyond this noteworthy connection, Arles is renowned for its Roman ruins, including a two-tiered amphitheater, the Alyscamps necropolis and the Constantine Baths. And as the gateway to the Camargue region, Arles is a great base for visitors looking to explore this marshy, flamingo-filled area.

cities to visit near france

Another popular wine region, Burgundy is home to rolling hills, superior cuisine and an array of vineyards. Those visiting Burgundy must spend time exploring the medieval villages, historical abbeys and museums that call this area home. Dijon, the region's history-rich capital, makes a great home base for touring the area. And, of course, you can't leave without trying the region's wine, which mainly uses the pinot noir and chardonnay grapes, and dining on some of its rich cuisine.

cities to visit near france

Northwestern France's Brittany region stands out from the rest of the country in more ways than one. Locals are proud and protective of their Celtic heritage, including their unique language, traditions and festivals. As a result, visitors will find many well-preserved historical sites throughout the area, including prehistoric megaliths and medieval towns like Saint-Malo, a popular port town with a 12th-century citadel. Brittany also features breathtaking coastlines with fantastic beaches that are known for their phenomenal waves for surfing, dive spots and dolphin-spotting opportunities. 

cities to visit near france

As the capital of France's Champagne region, Reims is a must-visit destination for both history buffs and those who love bubbly. The city offers many Champagne cellars where visitors can learn about how the popular wine is produced before tasting it. Additionally, Reims features breathtaking Gothic architecture at attractions like the Cathedral of Notre-Dame at Reims, where 25 French monarchs were crowned between 1223 and 1825, and the adjacent Palace of Tau, the former residence of France's archbishops. No visit would be complete without perusing the exhibits in one of Reims' museums, which cover a range of topics from war history to art and automobiles.

cities to visit near france

The gateway to the Loire Valley, Tours is perfectly situated for touring the region's wineries. But with Tours' historical elements and prime location along the Loire River, you may just want to stay in town. Place Plumereau, a medieval marketplace that remains one of the city's oldest squares, exudes irresistible charm with half-timbered houses, while churches like the Saint-Gatien Cathedral stun with their stately façades. Visitors will also have their pick of green spaces, from parks like Prébendes d’Oé Garden to riverside guinguettes (open-air cafes) at Tours sur Loire. What's more, several of the region's famed châteaux (including the Château de Villandry) sit just outside the city.

cities to visit near france

For a romantic escape, visit the Loire Valley in central France. Situated along the Loire River, the area is peppered with châteaux, bed-and-breakfast accommodations, farms and wineries renowned for their sauvignon blanc. The region itself is even a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its beauty and historical villages. Plan to spend some time in a few of the valley's laid-back cities and towns, such as Orléans and Saumur, and you can't miss the emblematic Château de Chambord.

cities to visit near france

This wine-producing hub woos travelers with its riverbank location and surrounding countryside. With nearly 300,000 acres of vineyards, Bordeaux offers ample choices for those looking to sip some of the best (typically bold red) wines in the world. In the city center, marvel at the Gothic-style Basilique Saint Michel, walk across the Pont de Pierre (a beautiful stone bridge), snap a photo of the iconic Place de la Bourse and enjoy the Jardin Public's pathways and flora.

cities to visit near france

Located on the French Riviera just 8 miles from Nice, the tiny hilltop village of Èze makes for an excellent daytrip. The best way to spend your time in this medieval town is meandering through its cobbled streets that look as though they've been pulled from a postcard. In doing so, you'll find picturesque views of the coast, as well as luxury hotels and shops from another era. Top sights include the Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption and Jardin Exotique d'Èze, as well as the walking path of Nietzsche, who was inspired to write here. Before leaving town, stop by the Fragonard Parfumeur factory for a fragrant tour.

cities to visit near france

Located 35 miles northeast of Montpellier, Nîmes delights history buffs with some of the world's best-preserved Roman treasures like its emblematic arena and La Maison Carrée, a temple dating back to 10 B.C. Museums throughout Nîmes also cover its past. But lest you get the wrong impression, Nîmes is anything but stuffy. The city embraces the joie de vivre of the South of France with countless festivals, from structured events like the concert lineups of the Festival de Nîmes to lively Ferias de Nîmes – multi-day celebrations that occur twice a year at Pentecost and in September, and center around bullfighting, dancing and music.

cities to visit near france

France's oldest and second-largest city has become an exciting, up-and-coming tourist destination. Marseille has a number of sights to see, including the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde and Château d'If, the ominous prison made famous by Alexandre Dumas' "The Count of Monte Cristo." When the weather is nice, the rocky cliffs and secluded beaches of the Calanques are excellent for swimming, boating and hiking. No trip to Marseille would be complete without a stop by the Mucem, a museum dedicated to Mediterranean civilization. Plus, its rooftop terrace makes the perfect vantage point to admire the city.

cities to visit near france

Famous for its annual film festival in May, Cannes is just as impressive (and much less congested) other times of the year. Cannes is another French Riviera hot spot that welcomes travelers looking for a little relaxation (think: sun-soaked beaches and meandering walks through the steep streets of Le Suquet, one of the city's oldest neighborhoods). Visitors can sightsee as they stroll along La Croisette, a 2-mile-long promenade, or sit down for an exquisite meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant. Feeling lucky? Stop by one of Cannes' casinos.

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  • France Guides
  • October 5, 2022

The 10 Best French Border Towns: France sans frontières

There’s something special about border towns. They have a certain je ne sais quoi, a sense of being both here and there at the same time. They’re places where cultures meet and mix, where you can get a taste of two countries in one.

If you’re looking for a French escape that’s just a little bit different, why not explore one of France’s border towns? From the picturesque medieval town of Rocamadour to the bustling city of Strasbourg, there are plenty of places to choose from.

Here are our top 10 French border towns:

1. Strasbourg

Situated on the border between France and Germany, Strasbourg is a charming city that blends the best of both cultures. The historic city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its picturesque canals and half-timbered houses are straight out of a fairytale. In addition to its many attractions, Strasbourg is also an excellent base for exploring the surrounding region.

Just a short drive away, you can find the Black Forest in Germany or the Vosges Mountains in France. Whether you’re looking to enjoy the city’s unique atmosphere or explore the surrounding countryside, Strasbourg is an ideal destination with a lot of things to do.

Here’s the map for Strasbourg, click here .

Strasbourg

2. Mulhouse

Mulhouse is one of the best French border towns to visit. Located in the eastern part of the country, Mulhouse is close to both Germany and Switzerland. As a result, it’s a great place to sample a variety of different cultures.

The town has a long history dating back to the Roman Empire, and there are plenty of interesting historical sites to explore. In addition, Mulhouse is home to a number of museums, including the famed Automobile Museum. The town is also renowned for its textiles and has a number of factories that produce high-quality fabrics.

Here’s the map for Mulhouse, click here .

Mulhouse

3. Chamonix

Chamonix is one of the best French border towns to visit. It is located in the Haute-Savoie region of France, right next to the Swiss border. Chamonix is a beautiful town with a lot to offer visitors.

There are several ski resorts in the area, as well as plenty of hiking and mountain biking trails. The town is also home to the famous Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Europe. Visitors can take a cable car up to the top of the mountain for some stunning views. Chamonix is a great place to visit any time of year and is sure to please everyone in the family.

Chamonix

Lille is one of the best French border towns. Located in the north of France, it is just a stone’s throw from Belgium. As a result, it has a unique cultural mix, with both French and Belgian influences.

The city has a beautiful historic center, with plenty of cafes, restaurants, and shops. It is also home to a number of interesting museums, including the Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille. If you are looking for a French border town that has it all, Lille is a perfect choice.

Here’s the map for Lille, click here .

Lille

Menton is a town in southeastern France, on the Mediterranean Sea. It is located on the French-Italian border, just east of the city of Nice. The town has a population of about 30,000 people. Menton is known for its beautiful architecture and mild climate.

The town has many historic buildings, including the Church of St. Michael the Archangel, which was built in the 13th century. Menton also has a number of museums, including the Museum of History and Anthropology and the Museum of Fine Arts.

The town is a popular tourist destination, with over 1 million visitors each year. Visitors come to see the beautiful scenery, enjoy the mild climate, and explore the town’s history and culture.

Here’s the map for Menton, click here .

Menton

Nice is a beautiful French city located on the Mediterranean coast. Visitors to Nice can enjoy its many attractions like the city’s stunning architecture, relax on the beaches or explore the many shops and restaurants. Nice is also home to a number of excellent museums, including the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art and the Chagall Museum.

For those looking for a more active vacation, Nice is a great place to hike, bike, or kayak. The city is surrounded by mountains and there are plenty of trails to explore. Best of all, Nice is just a short drive from some of France’s best border towns.

Grenoble, Chambery, and Annecy are all within easy reach and offer a variety of activities and attractions. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing vacation or an adventurous getaway, Nice is an ideal destination.

Here’s the map for Nice, click here .

Nice

7. Perpignan

Perpignan is a French border town located in the southeast of the country. It is close to both the Spanish border and the Mediterranean Sea. Perpignan has a rich history dating back to the Roman Empire. It was later ruled by the Moors and then the Spanish.

As a result, the town has a unique blend of French, Spanish, and Moorish influences. These are reflected in its architecture, food, and culture. Perpignan is also home to a number of museums and historical sites, making it an ideal destination for history buffs.

In recent years, Perpignan has become increasingly popular with foreign tourists, who are drawn by its charms. If you’re looking for a French border town that offers something a little bit different, Perpignan is definitely worth a visit.

Here’s the map for Perpignan, click here .

Perpignan

8. Saint-Malo

Saint-Malo is a picturesque border town located in northwestern France. The town is situated on the English Channel, and its history as a port city has left it with a well-preserved medieval center. The old town is surrounded by ramparts, and its narrow streets are lined with 18th-century mansions.

Saint-Malo is also home to a number of museums and monuments, including the Museum of privateering and the Cathedral of Saint Vincent. In addition to its historical attractions, Saint-Malo offers visitors a chance to enjoy the outdoors. The town’s beaches are popular for swimming, sunbathing, and windsurfing, and there are also several hiking trails in the area.

Here’s the map for Saint-Malo, click here .

Saint-Malo

Located in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France, Calais is a popular destination for both tourists and day-trippers from neighboring countries. The town is best known for its ferry port, which provides links to England and other parts of Europe.

However, Calais also has a lot to offer in terms of history and culture. The town’s Old Town is home to a number of important landmarks, including the Church of Notre Dame de Calais and the listed Rue des Marchands. Calais is also home to a number of museums, including the Musée des Beaux-Arts and the Musée de la Dentelle et de la Mode. With its beautiful architecture and rich history, Calais is definitely worth a visit.

Here’s the map for Calais, click here .

Calais

10. Hendaye

Hendaye is a charming French border town located in the Basque Country. Situated on the Atlantic Coast, Hendaye has long been popular with surfers and outdoor enthusiasts. However, the town has much more to offer than just its beautiful beaches.

Visitors can explore the medieval Old Town, visit the local market, or enjoy a leisurely walk along the promenade. Hendaye is also home to several excellent restaurants and cafes, making it the perfect place to enjoy a leisurely lunch or dinner. With its stunning scenery and friendly atmosphere, Hendaye is definitely one of the best French border towns.

Here’s the map for Hendaye, click here .

Hendaye 

In conclusion

So there you have it, our 10 favorite French border towns. These towns offer a unique blend of cultures and histories, and they’re all well worth a visit. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing vacation or an adventurous getaway, one of these towns is sure to suit your needs. Bon, voyage!

Simply France

We are here out of a desire to help and of course out of a great love for France. Our goal is to help you find everything you are looking for under one roof, to get the most out of your vacation in France, without having to travel all over the web.

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15 Charming Small Towns in France Near Paris

Would I recommend exploring small towns in France outside of Paris ? Emphatically, YES!

Visiting Paris, France is a bucket list for many. BUT… if you only visit Paris, you are missing out on the amazing charm of so many of the most picturesque small towns in France.

Whether you make plans for day trips from Paris or plan for a two- or three-day excursions to destinations in the north, south, east and west of France, you will absolutely LOVE the dreamy small towns in France outside of Paris .

And you may find that a quick jaunt to neighboring Belgium to discover Ghent and Bruges will round out your list of must-see small towns outside of France.

Table of Contents

15 Small Towns in France Near Paris

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If you plan to rent a car as you visit the plus beaux villages de france , be sure to pack a picnic lunch to enjoy during your adventures as you set off along the winding back roads of the French countryside.

Sycamore lined roads in the south of France on a rainy day

TIP * I always pack a foldable insulated cooler in the bottom of my suitcase when I know that we will be renting a car. It makes bringing a picnic lunch and snacks doable.

51dBUE EkiL

1. Aix-en-Provence

Recommended Length of Stay: 2-3 Day Excursion (or more to explore the south of France)

Aix en Provence is a charming small town in France

Have you ever dreamed of visiting Aix-en-Provence in the  south of France ? Did you know that it makes a great choice for an  off-season  getaway for an adventurous couple?

Plan your visit in the fall or spring and you’ll encounter fewer tourists, temperate weather, and a more relaxed vibe.

Book your tickets in advance and plan to spend a day or two or seven exploring “Aix” and all of the south of France. These small towns in the south of France are idyllic and picture-perfect.

Things to do in Aix-en-Provence

  • Stroll along the Cours Mirabeau
  • Visit the  Christmas Marke t that begins around the end of November
  • Tour Aix Cathedral
  • Explore “Old Aix”
  • Enjoy a  beignet  from PAUL bakery
  • See the  studio of Paul Cézanne  where he worked for the last four years of his life
  • Don’t forget  Camp des Milles —France’s only World War II internment and deportation camp

Cours Mirabeau, the main street off the rotunda, had once been a dividing line of class—the poor on the left side of the street, the rich on the right side. At night the gate to the poor section used to be locked so that no one could sneak out!

Recommended Length of Stay: 2-3 Day Excursion (give yourself time to explore Normandy and Mont-Saint-Michel as well)

Bayeux is a charming small town in France

As you drive through the French countryside in the summertime, you pass through plus beaux villages de France and homes adorned with brilliant pink hydrangeas, white hydrangeas, roses, and red geraniums.

These are some of the most picturesque towns in France that I have had the pleasure to see.

It is possible to take the train to Bayeux, but you may wish to rent a car to get around once you arrive so that you can properly explore another one of the small towns in France that is sooooo worth visiting.

Things to do in Bayeux :

  • Visit the Notre Dame Cathedral
  • Wander through the Botanical Gardens of Bayeux
  • Plan a tour to the beaches of Normandy
  • Visit the Bayeux War Cemetery
  • Shop at the Bayeux Market on Saturday morning
  • Tour the Baron Gérard Museum
  • Visit the Old Town with its historic waterwheel on the beautiful Aure River
  • Eat at Le Moulin de la Galette Restaurant

Recommended Length of Stay: 2-3 Day Excursion (or more days to explore the south of France)

Cassis is a charming small town in France

Following the advice of your hotel concierge , when you arrive in Cassis, you may wish to head down to the harbor to buy tickets to visit the calanques (calancas) on a boat tour. Or better yet, schedule an exciting day tour .

“The Calanques are a series of rocky cliffs and bays between the city of Marseille and the town of Cassis, in the south of France. They’re essentially inlets that have been formed in the limestone cliffs, leaving behind a series of beautiful little bays.” Theculturetrip.com

Things to do in Cassis:

  • Book a boat tour of the calanques
  • Kayak along the coastline
  • Wander around the harbor
  • Drive up above the harbor for stunning views of Cassis along the Route des Cretes
  • Visit the seafront along the Mediterranean for a little sunbathing
  • Enjoy Plage de la Grande Mer, Cassis’ main beach, with the family
  • Walk or hike in Calanques National Park
  • Spend the afternoon people watching

This idyllic little coastal village of Cassis is gaining in popularity and is the perfect place to enjoy a sunny afternoon. Discover this charming small town in southern France.

Due to its distance from Paris, you may wish to explore Cassis on a weekend or overnight getaway.

Recommended Length of Stay: 2-3 Day Excursion (plan to explore Riquewihr as well)

Colmar is a charming small town in France

Colmar is one of the pretty French towns you absolutely need to visit; it might just remind you of a Disney fairytale.

Things to do in Colmar:

  • Visit Little Venice or “Petite Venise” with its colorful half-timbered buildings along the canal
  • Wander through the Old Town along cobbled street
  • Shop at the quaint shops and boutiques
  • Order from a patisserie and sample traditional Alsatian biscuits
  • Visit St. Martin’s Church in the city center
  • Cruise the canal on a flat-bottomed boat
  • Experience the markets in the Alsace region
  • Spend a leisure afternoon relaxing at Champ de Mars park
  • Visit the Bartholdi Museum, home of Colmar’s most famous son, Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi. Bartholdi, the creator of the Statue of Liberty, has a museum dedicated to his sculptures located in the home where he was born
  • Visit Pfister House with its colorfully painted facade and octagonal turret

Ever wonder why  Colmar’s houses are so colorful? (Or many of the homes in the beautiful small villages of France?)

In order to more fully understand the reasoning behind the vibrant color choices of Alsatian homes, you need to venture back to the Middle Ages when very few people knew how to read.

A  Color Code  was established to help citizens identify the business or trade they wished to find on city streets by its color.

  • Emerald Green  – represented sewing, fabric and leather trades
  • Navy Blue  – designated wood working trades
  • White & Cream  – represented construction trades
  • Magenta Red  – designated iron workers
  • Ochre Yellow  – signified businesses for bakers and pastry chefs

It is also important to note that the color of one’s home also indicated a religious preference: Red for Protestants and Blue for Catholics.

Now you really have to visit Colmar to check it out for yourself, right?

5. Disneyland Paris

Recommended Length of Stay: Day Trip from Paris (If you want to spend more time at Disneyland Paris, be sure to book rooms at one of the amazing Disneyland Paris hotels .)

Disneyland is a great day trip from Paris

As one of the most exciting day trips from Paris , visiting Disneyland Paris is amazing.

Chris and I were exploring Paris with our three girls and managed to keep our plans to visit Disneyland Paris a secret until two days before our scheduled visit. Talk about the  ultimate way to surprise your kids with an adventure!

Things to do in Disneyland Paris:

  • Visit Adventureland, Discoveryland, Fantastyland and Frontierland in Disneyland Park
  • Visit the “New” Avengers Campus, Worlds of Pixar, Toon Studio and the Production Courtyard in the Walt Disney Studios Park
  • Get your camera ready for Meet n’ Greets with your favorite Disney characters and Princesses
  • Dance along at the Main Street Parades
  • Visit the shops & boutiques
  • Buy a pair of Mickey Mouse ears
  • Stroll along Main Street, USA
  • Stay for the Disneyland Paris Spectacular finale at the end of the day

Be sure to download the  FREE   Disneyland Paris Mobile App  before you arrive at the park.

Among other things, the app shows a map of the park, displays your current location in the park, indicates which rides are open or closed, identifies times and locations to meet characters, and is handy for  displaying the current wait times for rides!

If you plan to visit both Disneyland Paris parks, you will definitely want to plan for more than one day. Book your stay at one of the amazing Disneyland Paris hotels.

>> Related: Plan the Perfect Disneyland Day Trip from Paris

6. Fontainebleau

Recommended Length of Stay: Day Trip from Paris

Fontainebleau is a charming small town in France

Fontainebleau is most notably known for the historic Château de Fontainebleau , a palace which once belonged to the kings of France—including Napoleon. You can spend most of your day visiting the palace and surrounding gardens.

Things to do in Fontainebleau:

  • Take a tour of the 1900-room Château de Fontainebleau
  • Stroll through the scenic forest and gardens surrounding the palace: Jardin de Diane ,  Jardin Français  (French Garden) and Jardin Anglais (English Garden)
  • Rent a small boat on Étang des Carpes (Carp Pond) next to the palace

As a small town in France near Paris, planning a day trip to Fontainebleau will allow for a relaxed trip via train to begin and end your day.

Claude Monet called Giverny home for 43 years of his life. He was content to live, relax, be inspired, and paint in this lovely small French town. Surely he was inspired by the beauty of each season and the flowering blooms of his garden in Giverny.

As the second busiest tourist attraction in the Normandy area of France, you will want to plan for an early start to visit Monet’s home and gardens.

Things to do in Giverny:

  • Visit art galleries, museums, and gardens
  • Enjoy lovely cafes and restaurants
  • Visit the Église Sainte-Radegonde de Giverny church
  • Find Monet’s family gravestone
  • Visit Monet’s Garden and Home

As one of the most picturesque towns in France, don’t forget your camera!

Gordes is a charming small town in France

Historically speaking, the residents of Gordes, called Gordians, are known for their rebellious spirit: they sparked medieval invasions, supported fighters during World War II as one of the most active hubs of German resistance, and resisted the ruling French Vichy government.

Today, Gordes continues as a spectacular Luberon Valley village in the heart of Provence. The town itself was built into the hillside with stunning views of the whole valley stretching for miles below. It is definitely one of my top most picturesque towns in France!

The amazing views and the unique lighting began attracting artist in the 50s and 60s to this small town in France. Gordes’ artsy reputation continues today.

Things to do In Gordes:

  • Visit the legendary market on Tuesday mornings
  • Stroll through the lavender fields of the Abbey de Senanque in the summer
  • Visit le Château de Gordes where you can find art exhibitions by local artists
  • Walk along the cobbled streets and explore side streets
  • Enjoy the view
  • Visit L’Eglise Saint Fermin (Church of Saint Fermin)
  • Browse local boutiques

Outside of Gordes, lives the Abbey de Senanque. In the summertime, it is surrounded by fields of lavender, brilliantly purple and aromatic. Plan your visit at the peak of the growing season.

Renting a car to explore the plus beaux villages de Frances—Gordes, Les Baux-de-Provence, Lourmarin, Aix-en-Provence and other villages in the south of France—is highly recommended.

9. Les Baux-de-Provence

Recommended Length of Stay: 2-3 Day Excursion (or more to explore the small towns in the south of France)

Baux is a charming small town in France

Les Baux-de-Provence, another plus beaux villages de France , is nestled in to the Alpilles mountain range of France. The village sits atop a rocky outcrop, crowned with the ruins of a castle that overlooks the plains to the south.

Did you know that “Baux” has less than 25 residents in the upper part of the commune and approximately 440 for the whole commune?

Chris and I spent the morning wandering around the ruins of the castle in November of 2018. It was later in the fall and we pretty much had the ruins to ourselves for most of the morning.

Things to do in Les Baux-de-Provence:

  • Visit the village of “Baux” with its many tourist shops, classed among one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France
  • Explore the castle ruins and plateau also known as the “the dead village”. Walk around the ruins of the castle, the houses, the dungeon tower, and catapults.
  • Visit Eglise St. Vincent with its beautiful bell tower
  • Discover the magic of Carrieres de Lumieres (quarry of lights). This non-functioning limestone quarry in a hill, blossoms with a cool light show that projects images of works of art by the masters onto the massive quarry walls.

10. Lourmarin

Lourmarin is a charming small town in France

When Chris and I visited the south of France in November of 2018, our first stop in the Luberon Valley was Lourmarin. It was just the first of many lovely small towns in France with the cutest shops. I mentioned to Chris that the French really know how to create a vignette to draw you into their stores and villages.

Lourmarin is simply beautiful. I took one of my favorite pictures of all time as Chris and I wandered through the village on a rainy overcast day.

Things to do in Lourmarin:

  • Visit the Lourmarin Château
  • Peruse the Isirdi Gallery
  • Shop local boutiques and shops
  • Enjoy the Friday market
  • Visit fruit orchards, olive groves and vineyards
  • Rent a bike
  • Wander the quaint streets of this pretty village in France

11. Mont-Saint-Michel

Recommended Length of Stay: 2-3 Day Excursion (give yourself time to explore Normandy and Bayeux as well)

Mont Saint Michel is a charming small town in France

Mont-Saint-Michel, an island commune, sits a little more than half a mile off the coast of Normandy. It is the #1 tourist attraction in the area. 

If you are planning day trips from Paris, there is no train route to get from Paris to Mont-Saint-Michel. Either rent a car or plan for a guided tour.

If you are renting a car, parking is available about 3 km from the Abbey where you can then take a shuttle bus.

If you are a photographer and wish to take pictures of one of the most picturesque towns in France, either arrive early in the morning or simply get used to the idea that your photos will feature many tourists.

The Mont-Saint-Michel is one of Europe’s most unforgettable sights. Set in a mesmerising bay shared by Normandy and Brittany, the mount draws the eye from a great distance. This staggeringly beautiful location has long captured the imagination. The story of how the mount came to be a great Christian pilgrimage site dates back to the early 8th century, when Aubert, bishop of the nearby hilltop town of Avranches, claimed that the Archangel Michael himself had pressured him into having a church built atop the island just out to sea. Normandy Tourism

Things to do in Mont-Saint-Michel

  • Visit the Abbey
  • Admire the views and majestic setting
  • Try an omelette at La Mère Poulard , the most famous restaurant and inn on Mont-Saint-Michel
  • Stroll along the Bay of Mont-Saint-Michel. Research the tide schedule before removing your shoes and going barefoot in the sand.
  • Explore Mont-Saint-Michel’s main street—La Grande Rue. The buildings lining the street date from the 15th and 16th centuries!
  • Walk along the mount’s impressive fortification ramparts
  • Rent a bike and follow the path along the Bay

12. Normandy Beaches & Towns

Recommended Length of Stay: 2-3 Day Excursion (give yourself time to explore Bayeux and Mont-Saint-Michel)

Normandy is a great area of charming small towns in France

If you have an interest in World War II history and  Inspiring War Memorials Around the World  , schedule a tour to visit the beaches of Normandy and learn more about the D-Day invasion. It was the most perfect way for our family to celebrate the 4th of July in 2017.

Things to see on your tour of Normandy Beaches and Towns:

  • Visit the German cemetery
  • Explore Sainte-Mere-Eglise  – An effigy of John Steele, a paratrooper with his snagged parachute that caught on the church’s spire, is maintained on the church even today Check out the day our family  Toured Normandy on the Best 4th of July Ever.
  • Tour the Normandy Beaches – learn the history of Utah and Omaha beaches
  • Stop at Pointe du Hoc
  • Feel the reverence and peace at the American Cemetery

13. Riquewihr

Recommended Length of Stay: 2-3 Day Excursion to explore Colmar as well

Riquewihr is a charming small town in France

On our way from Strasbourg, France to Freiberg, Germany we made a detour to visit two charming small towns in France—Colmar and Riquewihr. The scenery was beautiful as we zoomed through the French countryside.

After arriving in Colmar, we quickly found the bus to  Riquewihr  for the noon departure. Our family were the only riders on the bus as we passed through the French countryside dotted with vineyards and farms.

We stepped off the bus into a fairy tale with this small French village. Apparently, the animators and creators of Disney’s  Beauty and the Beast  came to Riquewihr and Colmar when looking for inspiration in designing that  old provincial town .  

If ever there was a charming small French village, this was it.

And you could see the charm the moment you stepped under the arch into Riquewihr.

Things to do in Riquewihr:

  • Know that you are visiting a village that has been designated as one of the most beautiful villages in France or  Les Plus Beaux Villages de France .
  • Discover Vieille Ville, the medieval Old Town of Riquewihr
  • Visit Musée du Dolder (museum)
  • Enjoy the wine tasting room of Hugel et Fils
  • Enjoy lunch at Restaurant-Pizzeria du Vignoble. It was out of the way of the main flow of tourists and a perfect place to enjoy lunch on the patio
  • Wander the idyllic streets
  • Take lots of pictures
  • Browse the many shops and boutiques
  • Avoid the crowds by visiting earlier in the day

14. Roussillon

Roussilon is a charming small town in France

Roussillon is outstanding for its signature red rocks. It is a small French village where writer Samuel Beckett hid from the Germans during World War II (1942 to 1945). He worked heavily with the French Resistance in Paris and fled to Roussillon to avoid the Gestapo.

Things to do in Roussillon:

  • Visit art galleries
  • Take a day trip to Colorado Provençal  not too far from Roussillon and outside the village of Rustrel. It was somewhat similar to  Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs , Colorado, but on a much smaller scale.
  • Enjoy a cup of hot chocolate on a cold afternoon in Bistrot de Roussillon
  • Walk along the Ochre Trail
  • Rest for a bit in Place de la Mairie or the Town Square right next to the picture-perfect Town Hall. You’ll probably want to take pictures here and post them to Instagram!
  • Come for Market day on Thursday

15. Day Trips to Versailles from Paris

Recommended Length of Stay: Make this one of your day trips to Versailles from Paris

Versailles is a charming small town in France

The Palace of Versailles is absolutely worth seeing. Plan ahead for your day trips to Versailles from Paris; it is one of the great reasons to visit Paris and beyond.

The Palace of Versailles is the former royal residence of King Louis XIV in the small French village of Versailles approximately 12 miles west of Paris. The Palace has been listed as a World Heritage Site for 40 years.

Things to do in Versailles:

  • Schedule a tour of the Palace of Versailles – The Sun King Louis XIV oversaw construction of the Palace of Versailles from 1631 to 1634 from a former small hunting lodge.
  • Wander through the palace gardens and discover sculptures, fountains, trees, and flower gardens.
  • Download the FREE Palace of Versailles App
  • Enjoy the Musical Gardens
  • Experience the Great Musical Waters
  • Visit the stables
  • Experience the Royal Chapel
  • Stroll along the Grand Canal
  • Visit the Queen’s Cottage: Hameau de la Reine
  • Because Louis XIV didn’t have enough space in the palace, he had the Grand Trianon built
  • Peruse the farmer’s market on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday or the indoor market (open daily except Monday)

Day Trips from Paris to Belgium

Recommended Length of Stay: 2-3 Day Excursion (you will want to explore Ghent as well)

Bruges is a charming small town near France

While Bruges is in Belgium, it is one of the best small towns outside of Paris to visit. This charming village is often referred to as the Venice of the North .

There is a lot to do in Bruges, but if you are only visiting on one of your day trips from Paris, you want ideas for the best things to do to maximize your time and experience.

Things to do in Bruges:

  • Visit the heart of the city center in Bruges Market Square. You will find the tourism information center here.
  • Visit the picturesque Wijngaerde’ Beguinage. A home for religious, single, and widowed women still used today. These women chose a life a poverty and fidelity but did not wish to commit fully to a religious order. 
  • Take a horse and buggy ride through the cobbled streets
  • Enjoy the market on Wednesday morning
  • Take a canal boat tour
  • Discover the Bruges Photo Point at the corner of Rozenhoedkaai Street and Huidenvettersplein town square – Quay of the Rosary
  • Climb the 366 steps of the Belfry of Bruges
  • Visit the Historium Museum and climb the Historium Tower
  • Discover the Instagrammable Blinde Ezelstraat (The blind donkey street)
  • Visit the windmills
  • Try beignets

Try an inexpensive but delicious lunch at t Zand 27 . When Chris and I visited in 2017, they advertised Pumpkin and Tomato soups for 5 Euros.

Recommended Length of Stay: 2-3 Day Excursion (you will want to explore Bruges as well)

Ghent is a charming small town near France

Ghent is  THE quintessential charming European town .

We were fortunate to stay in Ghent for a couple of nights and absolutely LOVED it. On our first morning in the Old Town, we exited our hotel onto Korenlei Street, and it was just as if we had walked into a fairytale.

Things to do in Ghent:

  • Tour  St. Bavo’s Cathedral and Abbey – There was something like 300 crazy narrow steps to the top of the church to the bell tower! Good to note that there is an elevator that you can take part of the way up. Every 15 minutes the bells chime and on the hour music plays.
  • Tour St. Nicholas’ Church
  • Visit Gravensteen or the Castle of the Counts in Ghent . If you tour the site, you will be able to see the castle’s gatehouse, keep, ramparts, count’s residence, and stables. And don’t overlook the castle’s unique collection of torture devices.
  • Take a  boat tour  along the canal
  • Enjoy the views of St. Michael’s Bridge during the day and at night
  • Visit the Vrijdagmarkt or Friday Market – a tradition since the 12th century
  • Enjoy a Ghent Self-Guided Scavenger Hunt

I would say that Ghent was one of the MOST charming towns outside of Paris that I have ever visited. I would definitely add it as one of your must-do day trips from Paris

Travel by Train to Small Towns in France

Europeans have train travel dialed in .

If you wish to explore the charming small towns in France on day trips from Paris, planning these trips or overnight travel from the heart of Paris is a snap when you take the train!

Day trips from Paris mean that you can keep your home base in Paris and avoid packing up, checking out, and lugging your bags with you when you travel.

You can book directly on SCNF using their App or use trainline.com to effortlessly plan your train travel in France and throughout Europe.

What may appear to be a great distance when looking at a map is doable as a day trip with the high speed trains (some travel up to 320 km/h) that whisk you to your favorite destinations all over France.

Chris and I would both recommend booking your tickets in advance whenever possible. Ticket prices increase substantially the closer you get to your departure date.

Tickets can be purchased online as well as at transit stations throughout Paris.

Some destinations such as Normandy and the south of France do not offer great options nor direct routes for train travel. If you want to visit a French coastal city or the south of France, renting a car from Paris or a major hub nearby may be your best option.

For Americans driving in France, you would still be driving on the right side of the road, so that it one less stressful thing to worry about when driving in a foreign country.

>> Related: Americans driving in the United Kingdom

Take advantage of a travel credit card with perks and rewards.

Types of Trains for Traveling Around Paris and Taking Day Trips From Paris

The train to Disneyland Paris

  • Train à Grande Vitesse or TGV – High speed trains that provide a comfortable and spacious travel experience. Enjoy WiFi onboard, first-class travel options, luggage accommodations, and options to travel with your bike for an extra €10.
  • Réseau Express Régional  or RER – The Regional Express Network, Paris’ commuter train system is the underground or subway train connecting the Paris city center to the suburbs and popular destinations such as Disneyland Paris or for day trips to Versailles from Paris. The RER, Paris’ commuter train system gets you to your destination faster than the Metro since it makes fewer stops.
  • Metro de Paris or Paris Metro – The Metro is much like the RER but it stops just outside the Paris city limits.

Paris official public transportation authority

Camera Gear for Capturing the Most Picturesque Towns in France

  • Canon 6d Mark II
  • Canon EF 24-105 mm f/4 Lens
  • Canon G1 Power Shot X Mark III

Essential Travel Gear for Exploring Small Towns in France

  • Walking Shoes
  • Travelon Crossbody Bag – Discover why this is My Favorite Crossbody Bag for Travel
  • Water Bottle
  • Carry On Luggage

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Frequently Asked Questions

How many les plus beaux villages de france are there.

Today, there are 159 Les Plus Beaux Villages de France.

How many villages are in France?

There are over 32,000 villages and small towns in France. While Paris, Nice, and Lyon are spectacular and worth a visit, many tourists often overlook the small towns in France that are definitely worth a detour or at least day trips from Paris.

What is a “mairie” in the small towns in France?

A “mairie” is the town hall in the small towns in France and is often the center of town or village life in France.

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Charming French Villages outside of Paris

Final Thoughts on the Best Small Towns in France Near Paris

First-time tourists in France really need to plan a visit to Paris . As the “City of Love” AND the “City of Lights”, discovering major attractions such as the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Sainte-Chapelle, the Seine… all are sights worth seeing.

Once you have had the chance to explore Paris to your heart’s content, then you need to start exploring the small towns in France with day trips from Paris : day trips to Versailles from Paris, Aix-en-Provence, Fontainebleau… The charm of these small towns in France will have you coming back again and again.

You may also enjoy these articles…

  • Five Spectacular Days in the South of France
  • Plan the Perfect Disneyland Paris Day Trip from Paris
  • 6 Charming European Towns to Explore
  • 27 Instagram Worthy Insanely Colorful Destinations Around the World

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I’m a Colorado-based travel blogger with a passion for exploring the world, enjoying family time, and taking fantastic photographs. I am also a book writing, creative thinking, detail loving, frequent flying, comfort loving mom of three girls and wife to an amazing guy.

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29 comments.

I didn’t realise there are so many options for charming villages outside of Paris! I’ve seen images mont-saint-michel but never knew it was called that. Great post! Thanks for the inspiration

I think I’m planning my next workcation in France so I can explore all these charming villages. I’ve stayed at a chateau twice near Giverny and would love to return to that area especially.

I’m yet to explore France properly so this was a very helpful post! Very insightful!

Wow! I love your list of small towns in France. I have been only to Paris and Versailles .There is so much to do in and around France. I have to make another visit to cover these. 🙂

Wow, thanks so much for this guide! I’ve never been to Paris, but it seems like some time out of the big city is needed to visit these adorable towns. 🙂

What a comprehensive guide to all the small towns accessible from France! Colmar has been a long dream of mine and I had no idea that the color coding had some practical reasoning behind it! So great! Also thank you for the tip on the TGV trains!

Great post, I love the small towns especially when overseas this has given me great inspiration to go explore the French landscape.

I know that France is much more than Paris. I’ve visited some other towns and villages in France including Bruges and I love how authentically different they are from Paris. Thanks to you, I can add more places to my France Bucketlist. Thanks!!!

This is an extensive guide to small towns around Paris! Very helpful for planning a trip to France! Thank you for sharing!

I want to do everything on this list! These places sound amazing!

A trip through France has been on my list for ages! Can’t wait to do that soon, and I’ll definitely check your post when I start planning 🙂

This is a fabulous list of the most charming small towns outside of Paris. I would love to take an extended stay and explore all of them.

This post makes me want to explore more friends than we have! These towns look so charming and quintessential

I haven’t heard of half of these places, thank you for sharing them! I spent a few days in Paris a few years ago and it never crossed my mind to visit the surrounding area. Guess I’ll have to go back!

So many cute towns to explore! I really need to spend some more time in France

Wow, what a list! I would love to explore these towns by car during spring. France is a wonderful country to visit and I would enjoy exploring the cafes.

Such dreamy small towns that epitomise charming France! I must admit I am not the biggest fan of Paris, so the next time I visit France, I’ll definitely try to go somewhere like a town from this list. Beautiful!

My husband and I loved visiting Disneyland Paris when we were in Paris a few years ago! The next time we are in Paris, I would love to visit Versailles and Colmar. Thanks for these other ideas, too!

Thanks for the article. I’ve been to Versailles before but none of the other cute towns. I’ve also been to Bruges which was amazing. I was supposed to go to France again in 2020 but we know what happened there.

This is a great list to help get out of the “only visiting Paris” rut! I am so excited to visit some of these places, and I think you’ve convinced me that Disneyland Paris is definitely worth visiting as well.

I always say I’m going to do day trips from Paris and I wind up not leaving the city. Thanks for the motivation!

Wow, such beautiful places! Mont-Saint-Michel is already on my bucket list! ♥

There are certainly a multitude of lovely destinations to visit in France, yet if I were to choose just one, Cassis would be at the top of my list!

Wow! A week in France is easily sorted. These small towns are indeed fairytale-like.

Giverny has been on my list to visit FOREVER. Your post inspires me to visit France again to visit this idyllic small towns.

I love dreamy little small towns like these ❤️

I have completely agree with you that there is so much more to France than Paris and just outside are some of the most beautiful villages and towns. Fontainebleau is one my favourite spots outside Paris

France is magical anytime of year..grateful for this post to learn about some of the lesser known special places…

Wonderful list of small towns to visit in France! Giverny and Mont St Michel are two of my favorites but you have given me some more to put on the list for our next trip!

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The Best Coastal Towns and Cities in France

Biarritz is home to the wildest, most windswept beaches in France

With spectacular surf spots, turquoise waters and sandy shores, France has a fantastic and varied coastline. Culture Trip has picked the best cities and towns in France located just a short distance from the nation’s beaches, bays and coves.

Did you know you can now travel with Culture Trip? Book now and join one of our premium small-group tours to discover the world like never before.

France is spoilt for choice when it comes to beautiful cities and towns but it can be an added bonus when these are in close range of stunning seaside landscapes. Here’s a guide to some of the most culturally rich cities and towns with extraordinary stretches of coastline nearby.

Saint-Jean-de-Luz, southwestern France

cities to visit near france

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Trouville-sur-Mer, northern France

cities to visit near france

Trouville-sur-Mer is less well known than its more visited neighbour, Deauville, but it’s a good coastal spot because of its 19th-century boardwalk and seaside shops. The sandy beach here is astonishingly large so it’s a great option if you want a little more space in the busy summer months. Old villas dotted among the hills provide stunning architecture and local attractions include the old fishermen’s area – which is still a working port – and the D-Day Landing sites. Trouville-sur-Mer is in the region of Calvados, not far from the city of Le Havre.

Sète, southern France

cities to visit near france

The thriving port of Sète sits on the Mediterranean coast of France. The main attraction here is the 13km (8mi) stretch of coastline to the west of the town, which divides the sea from a saltwater lake, the Étang de Thau. With its sprawl of sandy beaches, it’s likely that it won’t feel as busy here as other spots on the Mediterranean. The town has great fresh seafood restaurants and it is known for its water jousting (joutes nautiques), which dates back to medieval times.

Honfleur, northern France

cities to visit near france

Honfleur is a stylish choice for people wanting a more traditional French vibe. It’s situated at the point where the river Seine (which runs through Paris) hits the English Channel and the old harbour dates back to the 16th century and is lined with townhouses from that period. The once-thriving port moved to its much larger neighbour Le Havre, so people now visit Honfleur for its history and to peruse the scenery adored by Monet – so much so that he painted the town on several occasions. Walk to the central 15th-century Saint Catherine’s Church, which was constructed by shipbuilders, or stroll around the coastal Botanical Gardens. The beaches nearby are great for catching crabs, which collect in the rock pools as the tide goes out.

Pigna, Corsica

The island of Corsica in the Mediterranean is one of France’s 18 administrative regions and is widely regarded by the French as the best place in France to find beautiful beaches – the water is turquoise, the cliffs pink and the beaches sandy. Pigna is an old village built into the side of the mountain leading down to the sandy shores, where you’ll discover a much slower, more rustic way of life. Corsica has always been fiercely independent – it only became French in 1768 – and it firmly holds onto its family traditions and local customs, including delicious food such as civet de sanglier, a recipe made using wild boar. Pigna is not far from Bastia, one of the main Corsican ports where the ferries dock, although it’s still far enough from city life to feel like you’ve escaped the bustle for a while.

Marseille, southern France

cities to visit near france

Marseille is a more inexpensive choice than Cannes or Saint-Tropez if you’re looking to head to France’s Mediterranean coast. It is the country’s second-largest city by population and has a good mix of historic neighbourhoods . A walk around the old port yields a new flagship cultural museum, the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations, as well as the historical Fort Saint-Jean. There are wide sandy beaches within walking distance from the historic port, mostly used by families with small children, with rocky outcrops offering superb diving possibilities along the shoreline. The nearby village of Les Goudes is the gateway to the coastal inlets called Les Calanques , which offer turquoise waters and perfect picnic spots with a view.

Biarritz, southwestern France

cities to visit near france

Biarritz is a sophisticated town on the Atlantic coast in southwestern France. Emperor Napoleon III made the resort fashionable when he arrived in 1854 with his Spanish Empress Eugénie. Later, European royalty, from Queen Victoria of Great Britain to Alfonso XIII of Spain, took their holidays here, increasing the town’s popularity. Due to its closeness to the Spanish border, Biarritz’s cuisine is a wonderful hybrid of French and Spanish influences and its beaches are sandy and wide. With the wind off the Atlantic coast, it’s also a good spot for surfing, particularly during July when the annual surfing festival captivates the town. Walk the promenade, which runs between the two main beaches, stay in one of the many boutique hotels, attend one of its festivals or visit a centre for thalassotherapy, which uses seawater, mud and algae to cure all your aches and pains.

Ault, northern France

Ault is often bypassed on tourist itineraries as, although it is very close to the ports of Dieppe and Calais, many people arrive by boat and drive straight out. Part of Ault’s charm is that it is not thronging with sophisticated restaurants or boutique hotels. Instead, it has picturesque white cliffs, pebbly beaches and a slow way of life dominated by locals and traditional restaurants and bars, rather than tourists. One of the best places to start in this small town of 1,500 people is La Flibustière. The owner has converted the front room and terrace of his house into a bar that looks out over the beautiful beaches under the cliffs below and he has a few rooms available in the form of a bed and breakfast, which is perfect for a short beach getaway with amazing scenery.

Martigues, southern France

cities to visit near france

Martigues is known for the canals that meander through its streets, linking the nearby lake, Étang de Berre, with the sea. Martigues began as a Roman encampment but the present-day town was founded in the 12th century by a local Provençal count and is now primarily a fishing port. It has a number of churches ranging from the 14th to the 17th century, including the Annunciade Chapel. A short drive away is the area called La Couronne, where there are sandy beaches often considered to be the best in the area, such as the Plage de Sainte-Croix. This beach is well served by local amenities (there are restaurants in several of the surrounding campsites, which will happily serve non-residents) and a shop that sells everything from ice cream and beer to sandwiches.

Saint-Malo, northern France

cities to visit near france

Saint-Malo is a beautiful coastal city packed with cultural heritage. It is a citadel city that was founded by Celtic tribes and fortified by Romans. Later, in the sixth century, monks established a large monastery here. It was these monks who named the large rocky headland after the Celtic bishop Maclou (or MacLow) from whom Saint-Malo gets its name. The same headland protected locals against Viking invasions much later and in the 12th century, fortifications were built which still surround the city today. The large fortress is surrounded by beaches, providing wide sandy shorelines with a superb saltwater swimming pool, which fills up at high tide. At low tide, kids crowd around the rock pools with nets to catch crabs.

Étretat, northern France

Étretat

Étretat is famous for its limestone cliffs; a stunning place to visit for a beach picnic. The cliffs run along 4km (3mi) of coastline, but it is here, at Étretat, that the water and weather have eroded three “doors” into the cliff face. They are similar to Durdle Door near Bournemouth on the English Coast directly north, but much more impressive in scale. The town has built a thriving tourism industry on its geological heritage, so the town has all the necessary conveniences, but it’s really the beach days that people come for.

landscape with balloons floating in the air

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Gorges du Verdon

The 16 best places to visit in France

From buzzing cities to gorgeous countryside escapes, these are the essential places in France to visit at least once in your life

France   is one of the most visited places on the planet – and you better believe that it lives up to every bit of the hype. This famous country has been at the cultural heart of western Europe for millennia, and you can see signs of its complex and fascinating past all over the place. But it’s not all   grand old châteaux : France is also blessed with some exceptionally beautiful natural wonders   and   some of Europe’s coolest city-break destinations .

So, from heavenly beach destinations and   picturesque rural villages   to grand old cities like   Paris ,   Lyon   and   Marseille , these are the best places to visit in France – and some of the world’s most essential destinations.

Discover France:

📍 The best   things to do in France 🌳 The prettiest   villages in France 🏖 The best   beaches in France 🏰 Spectacular  French châteaux you can rent 😋 The best   restaurants in France 🌊  The best places to stay on the French Riviera

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Best places to visit in France

Paris

Where do you start with a city like Paris? The French capital is one of the great global cities, as renowned for its world-class museums, magnificent grub and lavish shopping options as it is for its mere vibe . From the Louvre to the Jardin de Luxembourg, the place oozes history, beauty and, yes, romance. There is, quite plainly, nowhere quite like it.

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📍 The best things to do in Paris 🧑 ‍🍳 The best restaurants in Paris 🎨 The best museums in Paris 🥐 The best cafés in Paris

Marseille

The port city of Marseille has been one great big melting pot of cultures ever since it was founded by the Greeks a whopping 2,600 years ago. Having thrown off its rep as a town of sailors and gangsters, these days Marseille is a dazzlingly multicultural city with galleries and rooftop bars galore – and all within easy reach of marvellous spectacles of nature in the form of calanques and coves. 

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📍 The best things to do in Marseille 😋 The best restaurants in Marseille 🥾 The essential guide to Marseille’s calanques 🚤 The best boat trips from Marseille

Nice

Nice by name, nice by... alright, that’s a bit too cheesy. But it’s true. With its lavish beachside promenade, throngs of established museums and hearty wine bars, Nice is a rather exceptionally lovely coastal city. It’s the former residence of Henri Matisse, with an entire museum dedicated to the legendary artist – and with skies this vibrant, it’s not hard to see where he found the inspiration for his bold blues.

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📍 The best things to do in Nice 🏖 The best beaches in Nice 😋 The best restaurants in Nice 🛍 The best shops in Nice

Lyon

Lyonnais are known for being particularly proud of their city – and they’ve every right to be. This place is a gastronomic wonderland and (disputedly, we admit) France’s food capital, with each of its Michelin-starred abodes matched by dozens of under-the-radar culinary masters. And with its Unesco-protected city centre, Rhône and Saône river views and its history as a silk centre, Lyon has loads of non-foodie stuff to do, too.

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🍴 The best restaurants in Lyon

Bordeaux

Not just the greatest winemaking hub in the world, Bordeaux is also a full-blown dream of a city: packed with characterful medieval architecture, a top-tier dining scene and sprawling green open spaces, and within touching distance of some of the mightiest (and warmest) beaches on France’s Atlantic coast. Even teetotallers will find a shedload to do here.

Nîmes, Arles and Orange

Nîmes, Arles and Orange

For history buffs, there are few regions of France more worth a week’s visit than the lower reaches of the River Rhône. Impressively preserved Roman amphitheatres, arches, temples and baths draw as many visitors to the cities of Nîmes, Arles and Orange as the laidback lifestyle, local wines and year-round sunshine. But the highlight is the spectacular Pont du Gard: the 2,100-year-old three-tiered aqueduct that straddles the Gardon river. It’s one of the most impressive Roman monuments surviving anywhere – Rome included.

French Riviera

French Riviera

Stretching for more than 100 miles along France’s southeastern coast, the Riviera is best appreciated as a whole: as a series of delightful places rather than any one in particular. From perfume capital Grasse and rocky Èze to legendarily-glitzy Saint-Tropez and film-tastic Cannes, the Côte d'Azur is everything it claims to be and more.

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😎 The best places to stay on the French Riviera

Provence

Inland from the bustle of the Riviera, the vast and ancient rural region of Provence is the place for a slower pace of life. If you don’t like the smell of lavender, best avoid the Valensole plateau, with its fields of purple stretching into the distance – 300 square miles’ worth of the fragrant stuff. We recommend renting a mountain bike and cycling the yellow dirt paths, with a charming stopover in a village such as Riez or Esparron-de-Verdon. Not far away, the gravity-defying limestone flanks and dazzling turquoise-green waters of the Gorges du Verdon draw hikers, swimmers and kayakers from far and wide.

Dordogne

Named after the river that runs through it, the Dordogne region is almost surreally picturesque. Vines as far as the eye can see, endless rolling hills, impossibly pretty hamlets… from the seventeenth-century Chateau de Marqueyssac and its hypnotic gardens to the oak forests of the Périgord noir, it’s so beautiful it can feel like the stuff of dreams.

Alsace

On the Upper Rhine plain between France and Germany, Alsace has changed hands several times. Start in regional capital Strasbourg for a taste of Alsace’s culture, architecture and food – a distinctive blend of French and German – then  head to half-timbered Colmar for shades of Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ (plus  one of Europe’s best Christmas markets ). And whatever you do, stop off at  the twelfth-century Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg: an epic complex with views all the way to the Black Forest.

Lake Annecy

Lake Annecy

Bordered by snow-capped mountains in the Haute-Savoie region, Annecy is known as ‘Europe’s cleanest lake’ thanks to strict local environmental regulations. It’s also very beautiful. The third-largest lake within France’s borders, its ten square miles draw bathers, sailors, divers and sunbathers alike to its grassy ‘beaches’ in summer. Rich with flora and fauna, the area’s hills are ideal for hiking, and the town of Annecy itself brims with brilliant restaurants, delis and canals.

Canal du Midi

Canal du Midi

Connecting the Garonne river at Toulouse with the Étang de Thau basin on the Mediterranean, the 150-mile-long Midi makes for the dreamiest of waterside cycle adventures in summer. Built under the patronage of Louis XIV’s first minister Colbert in the seventeenth century, it is now connected to the Canal de Garonne, and together the two canals allow for barges to travel from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. For the full canal experience, you should rent one. A barge, that is, not a canal.

Loire Valley

Loire Valley

Two things make a trip here essential: castles and wine. The Loire is France’s longest river, and the stretch between Orléans and Angers is home to more than 300 grand châteaux dating back to the age when France had kings, as well as 185,000 acres of vineyards. Follow the river past woods and fields and through the medieval towns of Blois, Amboise and Saumur – each crowned by an unmissable royal castle. And don’t miss a chance to sample the local specialities: white wine, rillettes, goat’s cheese and Chambord – the latter named after one of the province’s most spectacular châteaux.

French Basque Country

French Basque Country

Although most of the historic Basque Country lies over the border in modern-day Spain, the French part is well worth a visit – especially if you’re partial to a gnarly surf trip. A classy bathing retreat since the nineteenth century, Biarritz became the home of European surfing in the ’50s, with the Atlantic regularly chucking ten-metre waves up its  Grande Plage.  Once you’ve dried off, refuel with a plate of the signature cured ham from Bayonne, just up the road. And further down the coast, the beach towns of St Jean-de-Luz and Hendaye have miles of golden sand and eye-popping summer sunsets over the ocean.

Brittany

With its sweeping cliffs and capes and proud Celtic heritage, France’s rugged northwest region— aka ‘Little Britain’ — is rightly likened to Cornwall. The coastline gets top billing, from the romantic Pink Granite Coast via quaint fishing villages to walkers’ magnet the Crozon peninsula. History fans should make for Carnac, Brittany’s Stonehenge, while gourmands will love plundering the local larder: crêpes, savoury galettes, and seafood, with France’s oyster capital, Cancale, just east of the picture-perfect walled town of Saint-Malo.

Normandy

Normandy’s stirring white-chalk cliffs – from picturesque port Honfleur to chic weekend getaway Étretat – gave birth to no less than the entire art movement of Impressionism. New bike route  La Seine à Vélo  reunites many of the area’s joys, especially at Monet’s home and lilypad-lined gardens at Giverny, before taking in Rouen (tied to Joan of Arc lore) and seaside Deauville. Keep on coasting for three more musts: the D-Day landing sites, Bayeux’s famously ornate tapestry, and ‘Wonder of the West’ the Mont-Saint-Michel, an island topped by a gravity-defying abbey.

Discover more in Europe

The best places to visit in Italy

The best places to visit in Italy

I conic cities, gorgeous towns and villages, incredible islands and all the rest

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The best places to visit in Greece

From Athens to the islands, there’s so much to fall in love with here

The best places to visit in Spain

The best places to visit in Spain

Sure, the beaches and big cities are incredible – but there’s much, much more to Spain

The best places to visit in France

The best places to visit in France

It’s one of the most visited places on the planet, but France always lives up to the hype

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17 Best Cities to Visit in France

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Much more than just Paris, France has a number of unbelievably beautiful cities that are waiting to be explored. History abounds throughout the land, and cathedrals, castles, culture and refined cuisine combine to entice you on a journey of discovery of all things French.

With such a wealth of wonderful sights on offer, the best cities in France are simply a joy to visit. So, what are you waiting for? Bienvenue and happy travels!

Dijon

Formerly a capital to the Dukes of Burgundy, Dijon flourished in the 14th and 15th centuries, as the city sponsored the arts and sciences. As such, the old city center is lovely to walk around due to its delightful sculptures and architecture, with the cathedral being particularly resplendent. While it is not enormous, Dijon is definitely worth stopping by for a couple of days, as it is one of the best-looking French cities.

Lille

The largest city in the north of France, Lille was formerly a merchant city that owes its wealth to the fact that it lies between Flanders and Paris. Nowadays, it has a lovely city center and vibrant cultural sector, with numerous museums that are worth checking out.

With a lively university community, some great places to go shopping and a thriving nightlife, Lille is a dynamic city with a lot going on. For a glimpse of some of the beautiful Flemish and French architecture on offer, head to the Grand´place, La Vielle Bourse or the winding streets of the old town.

15. Toulouse

Toulouse

The fourth largest city in the country, Toulouse is a lively place, in part thanks to its huge university community. With bustling markets, a vibrant music scene and a penchant for the alternative, there are different sides to Toulouse – the old town remains a peaceful and picturesque place to wander around.

Nicknamed ´the Pink City´ due to its rose-colored buildings, a lovely way to see Toulouse is to go on a boat trip along the Canal du Midi or Garonne River that frame the center.

Rouen

The city where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake is a pleasant contrast to this violent event, and a picturesque place to wander around. The old town is full of restored medieval buildings constructed from wattle and daub.

Situated on the banks of the Seine, one sight stands alone when it comes to visiting Rouen: that of the majestic cathedral that dominates the center. Dating all the way back to the 4th century it encompasses an eclectic mix of architectural styles – inspiring Monet to create over thirty paintings of it.

13. Ajaccio

Ajaccio

Located on the lovely Mediterranean island of Corsica , Ajaccio – its capital city – is worth stopping by, even if only to use it as a base from which to explore the beautiful landscapes surrounding it.

The old town itself has some nice streets to wander around, while the harbor surrounding it conjures up images of the Cote d´Azur. Famed as the birthplace of Napoleon, Ajaccio is pleasant enough to visit without setting the world alight.

12. La Rochelle

La Rochelle

Nicknamed the ´White City,´ due to its limestone edifices that are so beautifully illuminated at night, La Rochelle is a charming place to visit. Once an important seaport in centuries gone by, the old port, historic center and picturesque waterfront are reason enough to visit La Rochelle. With a huge marina at Port des Minimes, and sandy beaches in the vicinity, it´s a nice laidback place to spend some time.

Colmar

Situated in the Alsace region , Colmar´s proximity to Germany has meant that it has changed hands numerous times between the two nations over the course of its history. Tourists flock to the city for its stunning old town that so perfectly combines weaving cobblestone alleys with delightful canals, and the distinctive houses that line its streets.

Churches and museums are dotted around the place, and the Isenheim Altarpiece is particularly impressive to behold. As it is in the wine region, take the time to sample some of the best wines that Colmar has to offer.

Annecy

Located in the north of the Alps, Annecy´s proximity to Geneva, along with its historic city center, make it a popular day-trip among tourists. Also known as the ´Venice of Savoie´, quaint canals crisscross Annecy and weave their way between its ancient buildings.

Lying on the shores of Lake Annecy, the city´s surroundings are stunning, and visitors can hike, bike or swim in the nearby natural attractions. With a 14th century castle located in the center, it´s a picturesque and memorable place to visit, though it can get a bit too crowded in summer.

Avignon

Famous for the popes that set up shop in the city after fleeing Rome in the 14th century, Avignon was the capital of the Catholic Church for a period during the Middle Ages. The colossal palace that the popes built is impressive for its size and Gothic architecture, while the ramparts, towers and gates that line the old town are also fantastic to view.

The old part of the city is beautifully enclosed by the River Rhone that snakes its way around it. A great time to visit is during the art festival in July, though you will have to battle your way through the crowds at this popular destination.

8. Biarritz

Biarritz

Formerly a playground for the rich and famous, this seaside resort now attracts families, surfers and sun-worshippers alike. Situated in the Pyrenees-Atlantiques, Biarritz´s town center lies on the Bay of Biscay, and is famed for its beautiful coast and excellent beaches, which are its main attraction. While the town is not the most picturesque to look at, its great location right next to the water more than makes up for that slight downfall.

7. Strasbourg

Strasbourg

Capital of Alsace, Strasbourg has a stunning historical center and occupies a strategic setting on the west bank of the Rhone. Consequently, it has been fought over by France and Germany throughout its long history.

Now, however, the glassy European Union buildings glitter in the sun and, along with the teeming student body, help to give a modern air to this ancient city. The gothic cathedral is simply stunning to behold, as is the delightful La Petite France that is home to the old part of town.

Nantes

Situated on the banks of the Loire, Nantes´ long and tumultuous history has seen the city constantly reinvent itself. As such, it has numerous sites from different epochs that entice visitors to its shores.

As the historic capital of Brittany , Nantes´ old medieval center, with its cathedral and castle, is enchanting to explore. In recent years, it has developed a thriving student body that gives the city its energetic vibe. An incredible and unique attraction to visit is the Machines de l´Ile – a fantastical and futuristic exhibition of giant mechanical animals.

5. Marseille

Marseille

France´s second city is a diverse melting pot of people and cultures that all call Marseille their home. Traditionally thought of as grimy and a bit run-down, this bustling port city has undergone something of a renaissance in recent years, though its primary attractions remain the same.

The old harbor, for instance, is a magical setting from which to watch fishermen returning to shore with their catch. It is the heart of Marseille, and you´ll really get a feel for the city here. The oldest neighborhood, Le Panier, is definitely worth checking out, as is the stunning Notre Dame de Major cathedral that overlooks the sea.

Lyon

Lyon, the third largest city in the country, is located where the Rhone and Saone Rivers join. Its strategic location has enabled it to attract merchants and industries to the city ever since it was founded by the Romans in 43 BC.

An orderly and sophisticated place, renaissance buildings dot its streets. Lyon seamlessly mixes the new with the old, with a rich cultural heritage that encompasses gastronomic delights and fine architecture. Lyon Cathedral is one of the most impressive sights , and the old town is lovely to walk around. Make sure to try some of the sumptuous cuisine before you continue on your way.

3. Bordeaux

Bordeaux

Straddling the banks of the Garonne River, Bordeaux is a large city with a lot to offer . Its impressive old town is delightful to walk around, and the architecture on show is ravishing. Surrounding Place de la Bourse, you can find 18th century mansions rubbing shoulders with decadent palaces, as well as a number of great art museums.

With a modern feel to it, Bordeaux has a thriving university community. In recent years, a number of vintage shops have sprung up. For a great walk, head to Les Quais and gaze out over the waters of the river – at night, the view of the city lights from the Napoleonic-era Pont de Pierre is magical. Home to some of the best wines in the world, make sure to give them a taste before you head off.

Nice

Located on the French Riviera , or Cote d´Azur, as it is known in French, Nice is constantly bathed in sunshine. As the fifth largest city in France, it has a vibrant mix of cultures. Because it is a port city, Nice has a gritty side to it, which contrasts with its Italian inspired architecture and the medieval streets of the old town.

Walking along the famous Promenade des Anglais and gazing out over the turquoise waters is simply heavenly. For a great view of the city and the shimmering Mediterranean Sea below, head to the Colline du Chateau. A charming place to spend some time, Nice has something for everyone, as it combines city life with a beautiful setting.

See also: Best Neighborhoods & Hotels in Nice

The Eiffel Tower in Paris

With some of the most recognizable buildings and monuments in the world, Paris is a must-see city to visit, with a never-ending array of things to see and do . Situated on the banks of La Seine, the elegant and stylish capital of France is a romantic place, with lovely boulevards, beautiful buildings, and sights like the Eiffel Tower and gleaming Sacre-Coeur rising towards the heavens. Renowned for its cuisine, Paris has a plethora of restaurants to choose from – watch out though, it is very easy to spend a lot of money in a short amount of time.

From the stunning art collections at the Louvre to the eerie catacombs beneath the streets and the breath taking Notre-Dame Cathedral, you could spend a lifetime getting to know all of Paris´ wonderful sights.

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Map of cities in France

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Where Tiana Travels

15 Best Cities Near Paris to Visit 

By: Author Tiana Thompson

Posted on Last updated: March 19, 2024

Categories Day trips from Paris , France , Paris , Things to Do in Paris , Travel Guides

Home » 15 Best Cities Near Paris to Visit 

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So you’re kickin’ it in the capital of France and think, “Hey, what’s a good idea for a day trip or two?”

Well, aren’t you in luck, my friend! Surrounding Paris , you’ve got more small towns, historical cities, and delightful distractions than you can shake a baguette at.

Amiens, with its epic Gothic swag, or perhaps the postcard-perfect town of Fontainebleau.

Fancy rubbing shoulders with the ghost of Monet in Auvers Sur Oise?

Or maybe just keep it chill with a laid-back saunter through Versailles’ leafy park and cute streets?

Tighten your laces, strap on your backpack, and let’s explore some of the best cities near Paris to visit!

paris travel guide

This 10-page Paris travel guide includes all the best foods to eat in Paris, where to eat, the top things to do and see in Paris, including day trips, scenic tours, museums, attractions, and more. Find out the best (and worst) places to stay in Paris, including my top picks for hotels in each area. Links in this PDF are clickable so you can book your tours and hotels directly!

1. Versailles – Royal Vibes Galore

versailles garden

If your bucket list includes “Bask in the afterglow of royal greatness,” then Versailles, the historical city near Paris, is a must! The Grand Palace of Versailles will give any history buff a run for their money.

This place is seriously fancy, with baroque bling at every corner. Walking through it feels like you’ve been zapped back to a time of royal decadence. Take a stroll in the palace’s enchanting gardens, and let me tell ya, you’ll be snapping selfies until your phone cries for mercy.

The town itself is a postcard of quaint French beauty, brimming with cafés, boutiques, and of course, irresistible French cuisine (seriously, the pastries are to die for!)

Getting there? Easy peasy. You can hop on a train from the city of light, and in 30 minutes, you’re in Versailles. If you’re up for some luxury, there are guided tours to Versailles from Paris offering hassle-free transport and a golden ticket to skip the crowd at the palace entrance.

P.S. I wrote a complete guide on How to Visit Versailles on A Day Trip from Paris – check it out here !

2. Chartres – A Gothic Beauty Worth Visiting

chartres cathedral

Next on our tour, my friends, we dive southwest of Paris, and voilà, we’re in Chartres. This place is a feast for the eyes and soul, boasting one of the most awe-inspiring Gothic cathedrals on the planet.

The Chartres Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s not hard to see why. The stained-glass windows look like they were crafted by angels, and let’s not forget the relics, including the Sainte Voile, believed to be the veil Mary wore during Jesus’s birth.

I once took a walking tour of the city, meandering through cobbled streets and medieval buildings. It’s like stepping into a time machine, and I couldn’t help but get sucked into the rich history.

And hey, don’t forget to treat your taste buds while you’re here. Try pâté de Chartres, a hearty meat pie that is, quite simply, happiness in your mouth. So, if you’re a sucker for history, culture, and seriously good grub, Chartres is the place to be!

3. Chantilly – A Blend of Art, History, and Horse Racing

chantilly

Don’t let the name fool you, Chantilly isn’t just a topping on your dessert, but it’s as delightful.

Nestled in the Paris countryside, just a short hop from the French capital, this town is a hidden gem among the small towns near Paris. It’s often missed by tourists, but it’s totally worth visiting.

Chantilly’s claim to fame is the magnificent Château de Chantilly. I remember strolling through its impressive art galleries, home to an enviable collection of historical paintings and manuscripts. What struck me most was its extensive library, which felt like a scholarly paradise.

There are so many cool things to do and see at the Chantilly Castle , you can easily spend a whole day here!

P.S. This skip-the-line ticket gets you access to the Château de Chantilly where you can explore both the castle and the garden.

But it’s not just about the arts, folks. Chantilly is synonymous with horses. It has a rich equestrian history, housing one of France’s largest racecourses and a fascinating Horse Museum .

If you’re lucky to visit during a race day, the atmosphere is palpable!

Add to that the large forest surrounding the area, ideal for leisurely walks or energetic bike rides. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast like me, you’ll find Chantilly a breath of fresh air.

4. Lille – Vibrant and Historical

lille france city center

Just a stone’s throw from the Belgian border and a quick jaunt from Paris, Lille is one of those vibrant cities that keeps you coming back for more. I have fond memories of my first visit; the colorful old town, Vieux Lille, is a sight to behold with its flamboyant architecture and cobblestone streets.

Lille’s Grand Place is the heart of the city. There’s nothing like savoring a cup of coffee in one of the cafés and watching the world go by. I recall visiting La Maison Meert, a historic patisserie known for its legendary waffles. If you have a sweet tooth like me, it’s a must-try.

Lille also boasts an interesting history. It was a thriving industrial city during the 19th century and still proudly showcases its Flemish roots. Its rich past can be discovered in plenty of museums, including the Palais des Beaux-Arts, one of France’s largest museums.

I recommend taking a day tour of Lille to really get a good feel for the city and see all its main attractions!

With its unique blend of French and Flemish culture, Lille is one of the best options for a day trip from Paris.

5. Giverny – A Brush with Nature’s Beauty

giverny pond france

Tucked away in the verdant countryside, Giverny is a charming small village near Paris that’s a dream come true for any nature lover or art enthusiast. As an admirer of Claude Monet’s work, my visit to Giverny was nothing short of magical.

This quaint little hamlet is where Monet painted some of his most famous works. Monet’s house and the lush gardens surrounding it have been preserved as they were when the famous artist lived there.

Walking through the gardens, I felt as though I had stepped into one of Monet’s paintings – vibrant, tranquil, and absolutely stunning.

Giverny is not just about Monet though. The village itself is worth exploring with its charming streets, local boutiques, and delightful cafés. The Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny is another must-visit, showcasing a wide range of works from various impressionist artists.

If you’re looking for a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, Giverny is a perfect day trip from Paris .

6. Blois – Gateway to the Loire Valley

blois loire valley

On the banks of the Loire River lies Blois, an historic city that’s the perfect gateway to the famed Loire Valley. My first impression of Blois was that it felt like a living history book, filled with tales of French kings, queens, and intrigue.

Blois is well known for its magnificent château, once a favorite residence of French royalty.

The Château de Blois offers a fascinating glimpse into the history of the French monarchy, with each of its four wings representing different architectural styles from the 13th to the 17th centuries. I remember being particularly captivated by the ornate spiral staircase in the François I wing.

The city is a treat for history lovers, but it also offers a delightful range of local food and wine. The Loire Valley is famous for its vineyards, and a wine tasting is a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture.

Whether you’re exploring the historic château, taking a leisurely stroll along the banks of the Loire, or simply enjoying the local cuisine, Blois is a worthwhile addition to your French adventure.

7. Fontainebleau – Where Nature Meets Royalty

Fontainebleau castle

Hey there, how about a leisurely jaunt to the outskirts of Paris? A spot where you can combine history with a good dose of outdoor fun? Then, my friend, it’s high time you checked out Fontainebleau.

Just a short ride away from the capital of France, Fontainebleau is a small town with a royal pedigree. The town’s claim to fame is the grand Château de Fontainebleau .

Here’s a little secret, the castle isn’t just a castle; it’s like stepping into a time machine. I found myself marveling at its grandeur, almost expecting to bump into a French monarch around every corner.

This place literally is one of the most iconic landmarks in all of France .

But hey, don’t think Fontainebleau is all about the castle. The town is flanked by a ginormous forest that’s basically an adventurer’s playground. I had a field day hiking through the forest, and if you’re lucky, you might spot some deer or even a fox. Not bad for a day’s adventure, right?

Consider hiring a local tour guide to navigate the forest and make the best of the trip. Trust me; they have some fantastic insider info on the must-see spots and the best food joints in town.

8. Reims – Cheers to the Champagne Capital

champagne

Buckle up, folks! Our next stop is the champagne lover’s paradise, Reims. If you are into bubbly and historical grandeur, then it’s a good idea to add Reims to your itinerary.

The main event in Reims is, of course, champagne tasting . Taittinger or Veuve Clicquot, take your pick and immerse yourself in the bubbly wonderland. But remember, my friend, too much champagne might make the world seem even more sparkling.

In between sips of champagne, take some time to marvel at the Notre-Dame de Reims Cathedral. If walls could talk, these ones would tell tales of the coronations of French kings and the role Joan of Arc played in them.

And if you’re not a champagne enthusiast (which, honestly, makes me question our friendship, but no judgments!), Reims still has plenty up its sleeve. There’s a beautiful park, an art museum, and not to forget, a massive bucket load of history.

Related read: The Ultimate Guide to Champagne Tasting in Reims

9. Rouen – Medieval Charm Meets Modern Vibrancy

rouen france

Next up, we’ll take a trip to Rouen. Famous for its medieval allure and its connection to Joan of Arc, Rouen is a city where history is not just remembered; it’s relished.

Imagine yourself wandering through ancient streets, with medieval buildings forming a breathtaking backdrop. The star of the show is Rouen Cathedral – a gothic masterpiece and a historical goldmine. Did you know that’s where Joan of Arc faced her trial?

However, don’t be fooled into thinking Rouen is stuck in the past. The city has a thriving arts scene, with galleries and museums galore. I personally loved the Musée des Beaux-Arts, where I lost track of time admiring an array of artistic creations.

If you’ve worked up an appetite after all that walking, be prepared to fall in love with the local seafood. Trust me; a freshly prepared fish dish in a charming French town is something your taste buds will thank you for. 

And for the history buffs, here’s a tip – make time for a quick trip to Omaha Beach. It’s a humbling experience that takes you back to the harsh realities of World War II. You can rent a car and make the quick drive over yourself, or hop on a guided tour of Omaha Beach from Rouen for the full experience.

In a nutshell, whether you’re a history aficionado, an art lover, or a foodie, Rouen has you covered. 

10. Provins: Medieval village in the heart of France

provins france

Provins, a town nestled in the Ile-de-France region, about 90 km southeast of Paris, offers an intriguing portal into the medieval era. This well-preserved UNESCO World Heritage Site is easily accessible by train, making it an appealing day trip destination.

Stepping into Provins, you’re immediately enveloped by an atmosphere of antiquity. The town’s crowning glory is the Cité Médiévale de Provins, a fortified area enclosed by walls erected between the 11th and 13th centuries. As you meander through the narrow lanes, gazing at the age-old architecture, you may feel as if you’ve wandered onto the set of a historical film.

One landmark that cannot be missed is the Tour César. This 12th-century tower offers a panoramic view of the town and its surrounding landscape, a sight that’s worth the climb.

For history enthusiasts, Provins houses a variety of museums and monuments. The Museum of History and Archaeology showcases an impressive array of artifacts, illustrating the town’s rich past. The Saint Quiriace Collegiate Church, a stunning 12th-century edifice, represents an exquisite example of Gothic architecture in the region.

Beyond the urban sprawl, the verdant expanse of a nearby forest invites exploration. Take a leisurely stroll through the town’s parks and gardens, adorned with a diverse array of flora, offering a respite from the metropolis’s hustle.

To sum it up, Provins presents a charming blend of historical, architectural, and natural allure, making it a must-visit location for day-trippers departing from Paris.

11. Orléans: The Joan of Arc City

orleans france

Historically significant and culturally rich, Orléans offers a peek into France’s past and present. This city, renowned for the pivotal role it played in the Hundred Years War, is a testament to Joan of Arc’s heroic actions leading to a victory against England.

The city’s layout favors pedestrians, allowing easy exploration of the historic center on foot. As you navigate through the streets, you’ll find statues of Joan of Arc gracing various corners, a quiet tribute to her indomitable spirit.

Orléans also presents a lively display of French culture. Bustling street markets offer an array of goods, from fresh produce to handmade crafts. While wandering, take a moment to sample local delicacies, such as the acclaimed Orléans mustard.

In essence, Orléans offers a refreshing mix of historical narratives and vibrant culture, making it an appealing day trip from Paris for history buffs and cultural enthusiasts alike.

12. Amiens: Where History, Culture, and Warmth Converge

amiens france

If you’re seeking an engaging city not far from Paris, Amiens should be on your radar. Located in the north of France, a brief train ride brings you to this charming city.

Dominating the cityscape is the grand Cathédrale Notre-Dame d’Amiens, the largest cathedral in France. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it captivates visitors with its historical significance, architectural grandeur, and religious importance.

Beyond the cathedral, Amiens boasts various museums such as the Musée de Picardie and Maison Jules Verne. The former is a haven for art enthusiasts, while the latter pays homage to the illustrious French author Jules Verne.

For those seeking something unconventional, the Maison du Sagittaire offers a glimpse into astrology and horoscopes. For nature lovers, the Jardin des Vertueux, a garden teeming with exotic flora and fauna, is worth a visit.

However, the true charm of Amiens lies in its warm and friendly ambiance. The locals are keen on assisting visitors, providing directions and sharing recommendations for the best eateries, boutiques, and bars.

If you’re eager for a day trip that combines history, culture, and a genuine sense of hospitality, Amiens is certainly a place to consider.

13. Vézelay: The Spiritual and Artistic Retreat

Vézelay

A journey to Vézelay is akin to stepping into a world steeped in spirituality and artistic beauty. Nestled in the Burgundy region, this town is renowned for its Abbey of Saint Mary Magdalene, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Upon entering Vézelay, you’ll be greeted by the majestic sight of the abbey perched on a hill. Its well-preserved Romanesque architecture, combined with its historic relevance as a medieval pilgrimage site, makes it a must-visit.

Venture inside, and you’ll be awestruck by the beautiful carvings, which include scenes from the Bible and the Zodiac signs, an unusual combination in religious art. This testament to the artistic creativity of the medieval times continues to inspire artists and writers even today.

As you wander through the town, you’ll discover charming shops selling pottery, sculptures, and textiles created by local artisans. Vézelay’s commitment to promoting arts and crafts is evident in these boutiques.

But Vézelay is not just about history and art; it also offers culinary delights. From locally-produced Burgundy wines to regional dishes made with fresh ingredients, food lovers are in for a treat.

In short, Vézelay is a unique destination that effortlessly blends spirituality, history, art, and gastronomy. Whether you’re seeking inspiration, peace, or just a break from your routine, Vézelay is an excellent choice for a day trip from Paris.

14. Troyes: A Journey Back to Medieval Times

troyes france

Troyes, a city with a distinct medieval charm, is a must-visit for anyone yearning for a trip back in time. Its narrow, cobblestone streets lined with colorful half-timbered houses create an enchanting old-world ambiance.

One of the city’s main attractions is the Grand Place, an exquisite square encircled by beautifully preserved medieval edifices. Relax in one of the many cafes bordering the square, sip on a cup of coffee, and immerse yourself in the historic surroundings.

For wine enthusiasts, Troyes, situated in the celebrated Champagne region, is a delight. Participate in a wine tasting tour and savor some of the world’s finest champagnes.

Troyes isn’t solely about medieval allure and fine wines. It’s also a city with a modern pulse, boasting trendy boutiques and vibrant bars. Spend your day browsing for unique keepsakes or unwind with friends over a refreshing drink.

In summary, Troyes caters to a wide range of interests. Whether you’re a history buff, a wine lover, or simply in search of a good time, this city won’t disappoint. So, prepare for an adventure and embark on a journey to Troyes that promises to be memorable.

15. Vaux-le-Vicomte: A Luxurious Historical Retreat

vaux le vicomte

Consider Vaux-le-Vicomte for a day trip that seamlessly blends luxury and history, just a short train ride away from Paris. This magnificent 17th-century château will captivate you the moment you arrive, with its grand façade and meticulously designed gardens.

Embark on a guided tour of the château’s interior to admire its opulent furnishings and intricate decor. During the tour, you’ll learn about the captivating history of the château, including the saga of its original owner, Nicolas Fouquet, who served as Louis XIV’s finance minister.

The splendor of Vaux-le-Vicomte extends beyond the château itself. The estate’s surrounding landscape is equally fascinating and worth exploring. The easiest way to reach Vaux-le-Vicomte is by train; the journey from Paris’s Gare de Lyon to the château takes approximately an hour.

If your day trip wishlist includes both opulence and historical intrigue, Vaux-le-Vicomte should undoubtedly feature on it!

P.S. This combination tour takes you to both Chateau de Fontainebleau and Vaux le Vicomte on a guided tour with roundtrip transportation from Paris included!

Thanks for reading!

paris in february

I hope this list of the 15 best cities near Paris to visit sparked some inspiration for a day trip on your next trip to Paris. Don’t forget to check out my related Paris articles for more helpful information about visiting France’s capital!

Related Reads

  • A First-Timer’s Guide to Visiting Paris
  • How to Navigate the Paris Metro Like A Pro
  • When is the Best Time to Visit Paris?
  • Is Paris A Dirty City?

tiana thompson in paris

Hi, I’m Tiana – founder of and author here at Where Tiana Travels. I’m a 20-something with a love for all things travel, photography, and food. I have been living abroad for the past 5 years and solo traveling the globe in my free time. I created this blog to share my travel stories and inspire other women to go out and see the world. Read more about me here!

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World In Paris

Home > These Are the Best Small Towns Near Paris that You Cannot Miss!

These Are the Best Small Towns Near Paris that You Cannot Miss!

Explore the french countryside near paris.

Paris is a great city, with many exciting things to see and do. But it can also be a busy and crowded city, and after some days of sightseeing from dawn till dusk, you may need a break.

Luckily, the Paris countryside is stunning, and there are many picturesque small towns near Paris to visit, perfect to get out in the fresh air and see a different side of France. Most of these small towns and villages near Paris make excellent day trips from Paris by train.

So if you are doing great visiting Paris and have an extra day in the city, why don’t you give these cute towns near Paris a chance? Here’s the list of the best small towns near Paris (completed with a couple of small cities near Paris) to visit during your next trip to the French capital. The list also includes a couple of suggestions on where to stay outside Paris with direct train connections to the city.

Best day trips from Paris

READ MORE: Click here for the best weekend getaways from Paris by train

Best Way to Explore the Best Towns Near Paris

train station in Paris

Most of the French countryside near Paris is easy to reach by train. SNCF , the French rail network, links all the major towns and cities while also linking up many small towns in rural France.

Generally, trains are on time, comfortable, relatively cheap, and our favorite way to explore the towns and small cities near Paris. If you are also concerned about your carbon footprint and want to reduce it, trains are the best way to go around.

TIP: Check our France by Train Guide

By Guided Tour

A guided tour is not the cheapest option to explore the small towns outside of Paris, but it is definitely the most comfortable. Forget about planning, entrance tickets, or train schedules; just hop on a coach or minivan and enjoy your day!

Usually, guided tours include skip-the-line tickets and a knowledgeable English-speaking guide, making the place or attraction even more enjoyable. Also, half-day guided tours are perfect for people with short holidays in Paris but who still want to see more than the French capital.

Best Guided Tours to Visit the Paris Countryside

Cars are the best option to explore the countryside near Paris, especially those villages which are a bit off the beaten path.

If you need to rent a car, we recommend choosing a car rental office located on the outskirts of Paris: they usually have better prices, and you avoid the hassle of driving through the city. Reach the rental office by metro and avoid the traffic jams in Paris!

We use and recommend DiscoverCars.com . DiscoverCars compares 900 companies at over 53,000 locations to guarantee you the best price. Click here for our best tips for renting a car in France .

TIP: Check out this quick guide to driving in France

Best Small Towns Near Paris Map

cities to visit near france

Click here to view this map of small towns near Paris on Google

TIP: We listed these small towns to visit near Paris by region. Click here to read more about the regions of France.

small towns near Paris

Best Small Towns & Villages Near Paris (Ile-de-France)

Provins Medieval City

Provins is one of the best medieval towns near Paris. It is located 70 km southeast of Paris, in the region of Ile-de-France, and it makes a great day trip from Paris by train.

In Medieval times, Provins was the capital of the powerful Counts of Champagne. Thanks to the counts’ protection and its strategic location, the town became one of the main actors in the early development of international trade fairs and the wool industry in Europe during the 9th to 18th centuries.

Walking around Provins is like a step back in time! The town is surrounded by impressive walls, and the medieval architecture of half-timbered houses is beautiful to see. This medieval town near Paris is especially known for its medieval fair , usually held in June, and unique underground galleries that you can visit with a guided tour.

What to Do in Provins:

  • Sightseeing
  • Provins’ Medieval Fairs and Medieval Christmas Market

HOW TO GO FROM PROVINS TO PARIS

By Train: Paris to Provins is one of the easiest day trips from Paris by train. Direct trains leave from Paris Gare de l’Est train station to Provins (1 hr 22 min, hourly).

By Car:  Paris to Provins is a 91 km drive which takes around 1 hr 13 min, depending on the traffic.

EXTEND YOUR TRIP

There’s so much to see and do in Provins that it may be a good idea to extend your trip by spending one night in this beautiful medieval town.

>> Click here for the best hotels in Provins

2. Versailles

cities to visit near france

Versailles is one of the best small cities near Paris to visit, world-known for the magnificent Palace of Versailles . It is located 21 km southwest of Paris, in the region of Ile-de-Franc e.

If this is your first visit to Versailles, we recommend visiting the Château , but you can also decide to spend all your time exploring the Gardens of Versailles or other parts of the city.

The list of interesting sites outside the Versailles Estate includes the King’s Kitchen Garden , the Academy of Equestrian Arts , the Carriage Museum , and the Chuch of Notre Dame . The local market, not far from the château, is also fun to explore.

What to Do in Versailles:

  • Versailles by bike , boat riding in the Grand Canal
  • Fountains of Versailles shows
  • Classic music concerts

HOW TO GO FROM PARIS TO VERSAILLES

  • All the ways, public and private, to travel from Paris to Versailles

BEST DAY TOUR FROM PARIS TO VERSAILLES

Get the most out of your day in Versailles with this top-rated tour with a private guide, transportation , and lunch . Visit the Palace of Versailles and the Trianons with your guide, stroll through the impressive gardens, and have lunch at La Petite Venise.

There’s so much to see and do in Versailles Estate that it may be a good idea to spend one night on-site. You will also find yourself staying late if you watch the Saturday night Fountain Show.

>> Click here for the best hotels near Versailles Palace

3. Fontainebleau

Château de Fontainebleau

Fontainebleau is one of the most beautiful places near Paris to visit, with a lovely historical center and surrounded by a large forest. Fontainebleau is located 25km southeast of Paris, in the Ile-de-France region.

For many centuries, the Forest of Fontainebleau was the French Kings’ favorite hunting place, and they built a magnificent castle to get the most out of Fontainebleau.

The Château de Fontainebleau is one of the best castles near Paris and Château de Versailles’ eternal rival. Known as “the true home of the French Kings,” its different rooms and halls are grand and magnificent!

After visiting the Château, explore the surrounding gardens. The gardens’ main highlight is the Grand Parterre, the most extensive formal garden in Europe and King Louis XIV’s most significant architectural achievement at Fontainebleau.

The Forest of Fontainebleau is Parisians’ favorite place for hiking, hiking, and bouldering, and the 25 bosses de Fontainebleau hike is one of the most famous hikes in the region. If you are visiting Paris in the fall , consider a walk in the forest of Fontainebleau, it is stunning with the fall colors!

What to Do in Fontainebleau:

  • Château de Fontainebleau and Gardens
  • Hiking in the Fontainebleau Forest
  • Hot air balloon over Fontainebleau Forest

HOW TO GO FROM PARIS TO FONTAINEBLEAU

By Train:  direct trains Paris – Fontainebleau leave from Paris Gare de Lyon to Fontainebleau-Avon train station (40 min, every 20 min). Once you arrive at Fontainebleau train station, a bus shuttle waits outside to reach the château (12 min ride).

By Car: Paris to Fontainebleau is a 69 km drive which takes around 48 min, depending on the traffic.

BEST DAY TOUR FROM PARIS TO FONTAINEBLEAU

This Paris-Fontainebleau private guided tour is a great option. This tour visits the Château of Fontainebleau and the gardens with explanations by an English professional guide. The tour includes transportation in an air-conditioned vehicle and skip-the-line entrance tickets for the Château of Fontainebleau.

4. Barbizon

Barbizon - France

Barbizon is a cute village near Paris, nestled in the Forest of Fontainebleau. Barbizon is located 60km southeast of Paris, in the region of Ile-de-France.

Barbizon was home to the ‘Barbizon School’, a group of 19th-century French painters, including Théodore Rousseau and Jean-François Millet. This movement was born from the wish of certain artists to represent unspoiled nature.

After visiting Château de Fontainebleau, Barbizon is a lovely place to go for a good meal followed by a stroll. Admire its charming stone houses and restored inns and workshops. Enjoy its flowery walls and the heady smell of turpentine.

The Auberge Ganne is where penniless painters without money often shared the same rooms and drew on the walls to perfect their lines. The evenings in this modest inn always ended up late, with everybody heavily drunk. Even today, visitors can immerse themselves in this era which saw the birth of the very idea of ​​the romantic painter in search of pure and beautiful nature.  

Art lovers will enjoy the Barbizon School Museum, Millet’s studio, and numerous art galleries.

What to Do in Barbizon:

  • Eat & Drink
  • Biking and hiking

HOW TO GO FROM PARIS TO BARBIZON

By Train + Bus:  direct trains Paris – Fontainebleau leave from Paris Gare de Ly on to Fontainebleau-Avon train station (40 min, every 20 min). Once you arrive at Fontainebleau train station, take bus #21 to Angelus (22 min ride).

From Fontainebleau, you can also rent a bike. From Fontainebleau, it’s a mere 10km bike ride to Barbizon (one way).

By Car: Paris to Fontainebleau is a 70 km drive which takes around 40 min, depending on the traffic.

BEST DAY TOUR FROM PARIS TO BARBIZON

This Fontainebleau + Barbizon full-day private guided tour is a great option. The tour includes pick up and drop off at your accommodation in Paris, transportation in a luxury van, a professional guide, and entrance tickets to the Château of Fontainebleau.

5. Moret-Sur-Loing

Moret-sur-Loing France

If you are interested in pretty medieval towns near Paris, you’re going to love Moret-sur-Loing . Moret is located on the eastern side of the Fontainebleau forest, 77km southeast of Paris, in the Ile-de-France region.

One of the cutest towns to visit near Paris, Moret-sur-Loing has a beautiful medieval heritage and a couple of interesting museums. It is also an excellent place for outdoor activities like kayaking, biking, or hiking.

Moret-sur-Loing was home to the impressionist painter Alfred Sisley, who found in Moret the source of inspiration for many of his masterworks. The Tourism Office in Moret proposes a self-guided walking tour itinerary to see all the spots that inspired the painter. You will quickly understand why Sisley fell in love with Moret!

Things to Do in Moret Sur Loing:

HOW TO GO FROM PARIS TO MORET-SUR-LOING

By Train:  direct trains leave from Paris Gare de Lyon to Moret-Veneux-Les Sablons train station (48 min, every 30 min). Once you arrive at Moret-Veneux-Les Sablons train station, there is a 15-minute walk to Moret.

By Car: Paris to Moret-sur-Loing is a 77 km drive which takes around 58 min, depending on the traffic.

6. Auvers-sur-Oise

Auverge Ravoux - Auvers-sur-Oise

If you are looking for beautiful villages near Paris to visit, Auvers-sur-Oise is the place to go. Auvers-Sur-Oise is located 35 km north of Paris, in the region of Ile de France , and has many interesting things to do.

Auvers-sur-Oise is also known as the Impressionists’ Village because it attired many artists, especially the Impressionists, by the end of the 19th century. People like Cézanne, Pissarro, Sisley, and Monet lived or frequented Auvers-Sur-Oise and painted the village in some of their masterworks.

But most of all, Auvers-Sur-Oise is known for being Vincent Van Gogh’s last home.  Van Gogh discovered Auvers by the end of his life, and although he lived in the village for less than two months, he painted 70 works in Auvers, most of them related to the village and its landscapes.

Here, there is a lovely self-guided walk, The Painters’ Pathway , which visits several views appearing in some Impressionist paintings. Also, you can see the room at Auberge Ravoux, where Van Gogh lived and passed away, the famous Church at Auvers, and Van Gogh’s tomb in the local cemetery.

What to Do in Auvers-sur-Oise

  • Nature walks
  • A special place for Van Gogh’s fans!

HOW TO GO FROM PARIS TO AUVERS-SUR-OISE

By Train:  Trains from Paris to Auvers-sur-Oise leave from Paris Gare du Nord. It is a 41-minute ride from Paris to Auvers (one way).

By Car:  Paris to Auvers-Sur-Oise is a 33 km drive which takes around 28 min, depending on the traffic.

7. Marly-Le-Roi

Marly Le Roi, France

Marly-le-Roi is one of the villages near Paris worth visiting. It is located 20km west of Paris, in the region of Ile-de-France.

Marly was the location of Château de Marly , the famous leisure residence of King Louis XIV, which was more intimate than Versailles and far from the court etiquette. Only a few people had the honor to be the King’s guests at Marly, and they were appointed directly by King Louis XIV a few days before the departure.

The Château de Marly was totally destroyed after the French Revolution. However, a few remains are left, and the surrounding park still keeps its original waterways, lawns, and sculptures.

In Marly-le-Roi, you may also want to visit Alexandre Dumas’ home, the Château de Montecristo , and its park. This beautiful and intriguing castle is an excellent opportunity to learn more about the writer’s life and work.

Things to Do in Marly-Le-Roi:

  • Stroll around the gardens and the remains of the Royal Palace
  • Picnic in the Park
  • Visit the Château de Montecristo

HOW TO GO FROM PARIS TO MARLY-LE-ROI

By Train: Marly-le-Roi is one of the easiest day trips from Paris by train, with many direct trains from La Défense to Marly-le-Roi. To reach La Défense train station, take the RER A or the Parisian metro line 1. Then take train L towards St Nom la Bretèche train station (1hr, every 20 min).

By Car:  Paris to Marly-le-Roi is a 25 km drive which takes around 23 min, depending on the traffic.

8. Bougival

Bougival - France

If you are looking for beautiful towns near Paris easy to reach by train, Bougival is a good option. Bougival is located 17km west of Paris, in the Ile-de-France region.

During the 19th century, the Impressionists chose this peaceful place by the Seine River as their favorite open-air workshop. People like Monet , Sisley, or Berthe Morisot spent long periods in this village trying to catch the beauty of the river and its banks, and soon Bougival’s landscapes became the subject of some of their masterworks.

Visit Bougival’s picturesque historic center, with its beautiful Romanesque-style church, before heading to the Seine River’s banks to follow the Impressionist Walk . This walk has real scale panels showing the reproductions of famous Impressionist paintings at the exact point where the painters found the inspiration.

In Bougival, you will also find the remains of the Machine of Marly . This intriguing machine, built under the rule of King Louis XIV, transported water from the Seine River up to Versailles to feed the Fountains of Versailles ! At that time, the Machine de Marly was considered the eighth-world wonder.

Things to Do in Bougival:

  • Seine River walks
  • The remains of the Machine of Marly

HOW TO GO FROM PARIS TO BOUGIVAL

By Train: Bougival is the train station before Marly-le-Roi, so you can visit both places on the same day.

There are many direct trains from La Défense to Bougival train station. To reach La Défense train station, take the RER A or the Parisian metro line 1. Then take train L towards St Nom la Bretèche train station (1hr, every 20 min).

By Car:  Paris to Bougival i is a 15 km drive which takes around 14 min, depending on the traffic.

9. Montfort L’Amaury

Montfort l'Amaury, France

Montfort l’Amaury is one of the best villages near Paris to visit, with an interesting medieval heritage despite its small size. Monfort is located 45km west of Paris, in the region of Ile-de-France.

We arrived at Montfort L’Amaury following Victor Hugo’s steps. The famous French writer discovered this place when he was 23, and he wrote a beautiful ode to Monfort’s ruins (Tour d’Anne de Bretagne) ‘Aux Ruines de Montfort l’Amaury:’

  • Je vous aime, ô débris ! Et surtout quand l’automne
  • Prolonge en vos échos sa plainte monotone. Sous vos abris croulants je voudrais habiter, | Vieilles tours, que le temps l’une vers l’autre incline.
  • Et qui semblez de loin sur la haute colline, |Deux noirs géants prêts à lutter.

The historical center of Montfort still keeps its medieval layout, and you can see many beautiful half-timbered houses populating the streets around the church.

The list of interesting sites in Monfort l’Amaury is long. It includes the 12th-century fortified castle ( Tour Anne de Bretagne ), the impressive Saint Pierre Church (15th-16th centuries), and the old cemetery with a beautiful covered gallery. The French composer Maurice Ravel lived in Montfort for 16 years, and it is possible to visit his house ( Le Belvedère ), where he composed the famous Boléro.

Things to Do in Montfort L’Amaury

HOW TO GO FROM PARIS TO MONTFORT L’AMAURY

By Train + Bicycle: direct trains leave from Paris Gare de Montparnasse to Montfort Méré train station. From this train station, there is a 3.6 km walk to Montfort l’Amaury. You can take your bicycle on the train (or rent one in Paris) and explore Monfort by bike starting from the train station.

By Car: the car is the easiest way to visit Montfort l’Amaury. Paris to Montfort l’Amaury is a 50 km drive which takes around 35 min, depending on the traffic.

10. Chevreuse

Vallée de la Chevreuse, France

La Haute Vallée de la Chevreuse is a hiking paradise with the perfect mix of nature walks and cultural heritage. If you are looking for day trips in the Paris countryside, you are going to love Chevreuse , a small village nestled in the Valley. Chevreuse is located 34km southwest of Paris, in the region of Ile-de-France.

Chevreuse is dominated by the Château de la Madelaine, a beautiful fortified castle (11th century) on the top of a hill with panoramic views of the Valley. This village near Paris is also known for its  Chemin des Petits Ponts along one of the legs of the Yvette River . This picturesque pedestrian walk is lined with old laundries, tanneries, and watermills.

Things to do in Chevreuse:

HOW TO GO FROM PARIS TO CHEVREUSE

By Train: We usually visit Chevreuse on an (18 km) day hike, starting at La Verrière train station and ending at St Rémy La Chevreuse train station. If you want to visit the town of Chevreuse only, take RER B to Saint Rémy La Chevreuse train station (45 min, hourly), and from there, there is a 3 km walk to Chevreuse.

By Car:  Paris to Chevreuse is a 34 km drive which takes around 40 min, depending on the traffic.

11. La Roche-Guyon

La Roche Guyon France

If you are looking for quaint villages near Paris to visit, consider La Roche-Guyon , on the right bank of the Seine River. La Roche-Guyon is located 72km northwest of Paris, and this is the only village in the region of Ile de France with the ‘ Most Beautiful Villages of France ‘ label.

In the 19th century, La Roche-Guyon was a holiday resort that saw many celebrities of the arts and letters. This picturesque village near Paris is known for its intriguing 12th-century castle. The keep, built on the top of the hill, is connected to the main building through a 100-step underground staircase dug into the side of the plateau, and it offers panoramic views of the village and the Seine Valley.

The Kitchen Garden is another interesting place to visit in La Roche-Guyon . This French-style vegetable garden was created in the 18th century by the La Rochefoucauld family, the castle’s owners. This family shared the ideas of the physiocrats and encyclopaedists, and they wanted for their château a scientific and experimental garden rather than a pleasure garden.

Things to Do in La Roche-Guyon

HOW TO GO FROM PARIS TO LA ROCHE GUYON

By Train+Bus:  La Roche-Guyon from Paris by public transportation is not easy, but nothing is impossible! Take a train from Paris Saint Lazare Train Station to Gare de Bonnières (47 min, every 4 hours). The next step is to take a bus from Gare Routière Bonnières to Petit Pont station (9 min, every 4 hours).

By Car:  Paris to La Roche-Guyon is a 72 km drive which takes around 53 min, depending on the traffic.

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Cute Towns Near Paris (Hauts-de-France)

12. chantilly.

Chateau de Chantilly, France

Looking for easy day trips from Paris by train? Head to the town of Chantilly to visit the Grand Stables and the Château. Chantilly is located 38km northeast of Paris, in the region of Hauts-de-France.

In the beginning, Chantilly was just a few hamlets scattered outside the Château, which turned into a cute small town with the years. Château de Chantilly was built in the 16th century for the House of Montomercy. Later, it was owned by the princes of Condé, cousins of the King of France.

In the 17th century, Les Grandes Ecuries (the Grand Stables) was built for the Prince of Condé, a passionate about horses, and they could host 240 horses and 500 hounds. Today Les Grandes Écuries hosts the Horse Museum, and it is a very reputed center of dressage for the most expensive horses in the world.  The ticket to the Horse Museum includes a very entertaining dressage show.

Since the construction of Les Grandes Écuries, the world of this small town near Paris has turned around horses. Today, Chantilly and the surrounding villages are home to the largest racehorse-training community in France. The Chantilly Racecourse (Hippodrome de Chantilly) hosts one of the most prestigious horse races in the world.

Things to Do in Chantilly:

  • Chic racecourses in the Hippodrome de Chantilly

HOW TO GO FROM PARIS TO CHANTILLY

By Train:  Paris to Chantilly by train is straightforward, with direct trains from Paris Gare du Nord to Chantilly-Gouvieux train station (30 min, hourly). From there, it’s a pleasant walk to the Château and the Stables.

By Car:  Paris to Chantilly is a 42 km drive which takes around 40 min, depending on the traffic.

Because of its direct train connection with Paris, Chantilly is one of the best places to stay outside Paris to enjoy the French countryside, with easy access to Paris.

>> Click here for the best hotels in Chantilly

Senlis, France

Senlis is one of the cute towns near Paris that you cannot miss, with a rich history and beautiful architecture. Senlis is located 42km north of Paris, in the region of Hauts-de-France.

Senlis is a royal town, the cradle of the Capet dynasty . Indeed, Hugh Capet was lord of Senlis before becoming the first French king of the House of Capet in 987. Since then and until King Henry IV, all his successors lived or spent some periods in the Royal Palace of Senlis.

Today the historical center of Senlis still keeps its medieval layout, with picturesque cobbled streets and beautiful architecture dating from the 10th-18th century. Senlis Cathedral may not be one of our favorite cathedrals in France, but no one can deny that it is imposing and probably the best remaining witness of Senlis’ power.

Senlis is also well known for its Roman heritage, and you can still see some remains of the Roman fortress and towers (3rd century) and a Gallo-Roman arena (1st century).

Things to Do in Senlis

HOW TO GO FROM PARIS TO SENLIS

By Train + Bus: If you want to go from Paris to Senlis by public transportation, take the train from Paris Gare du Nord to Chantilly-Gouvieux train station (30 min, hourly) and then take bus #645 to Senlis (20 min ride every 30 min). The bus schedule changes often, so we recommend checking the tourism website here .

By Car:  Paris to Senlis is a 51 km drive which takes around 35 min, depending on the traffic.

You can visit Senlis on a day trip from Paris, but the town is so charming that it is worth spending one night on-site. Book one night in Senlis and use the day after to visit Chantilly, located only 10 minutes by bus from Senlis.

>> Click here for the best hotels in Senlis

14. Gerberoy

Gerberoy, France

Gerberoy is one of the cutest small villages near Paris. It is located 105km northwest of Paris, and it is a dream destination for flower passionates, especially rose lovers.

Walking around this picturesque village and its gardens is an absolute delight, with its narrow cobbled streets, 17th-18th-century houses, climbing roses, wisterias, and other flowers and plants.

Gerberoy is one of the villages in Hauts-de-France with the ‘Most beautiful villages of France’ label. It is the perfect place to wander aimlessly, looking at the flowers and the small details.

Gerberoy is best known for its Rose Festival (the third weekend of June), when roses and hortensias are in full bloom.

Things to Do in Gerberoy:

  • The Rose Festival in June

HOW TO GO FROM PARIS TO GERBEROY

By Car:  Paris to Gerberoy is a 105 km drive which takes around 1 hour 15 min, depending on the traffic.

Best Small Towns Outside of Paris (Normandy)

15. giverny.

Giverny, France

Giverny is one of the most famous villages near Paris, where the Impressionist painter Claude Monet lived and worked from 1883 until he died in 1926. Giverny is located 74km northwest of Paris, in the Normandy region.

Every year thousands of visitors travel from Paris to Giverny to visit Monet’s House and Garden to admire the water lily pond that inspired Monet for many of his paintings ( click here for a quick guide ). However, Monet’s house and studio are as attractive as the gardens; they are a visual experience of different spaces, colors, and materials where the painter left nothing to chance.

Apart from Monet’s house, Giverny has a main street with cute shops, cafes, and an Impressionist Museum .

Things to Do in Giverny

  • Monet’s House and Garden

HOW TO GO FROM PARIS TO GIVERNY

By Train + Shuttle: There is no direct train connection from Paris to Giverny. First, you need to take a train from Gare Saint Lazare to Vernon train station (1 hr, hourly), where you can take a shuttle that drops you in front of Monet’s house.

>> Click here to book your train tickets to Vernon

By Car:  Paris to Giverny is a 74 km drive which takes around 54 min, depending on the traffic.

BEST DAY TOUR FROM PARIS TO GIVERNY

If you’d rather not drive to Giverny yourself, you can take this half-day guided tour to Giverny with an expert guide that will drive you there and back in comfort.

16. Les Andelys

Les Andelys Normandie

Les Andelys are two beautiful towns near Paris located in one of the meanders of the Seine River 90km northwest of Paris. A pleasant walk along the canal connects the two towns in the Normandy region.

Les Andelys are overlooked by the splendid ruins of Château-Gaillard . This medieval fortress was built in the 12th century under the orders of King Richard Lionheart – who was also Duke of Normandy – to protect his lands against the French King Philippe Auguste. The view from the castle (see picture above) over Les Andelys and the Seine River is terrific.

Les Andelys (and the Château Gaillard) make a nice stop, perhaps on your way to Giverny or Rouen by car. Apart from the ruins of the Château, the towns have different religious buildings from the 13th century and beautiful family houses from the 16th-19th centuries.

Things to Do in Les Andelys

HOW TO GO FROM PARIS TO LES ANDELYS

By Car: This is the best option to visit Les Andelys because train connections are not good. Les Andelys is a 90km drive which takes around 1 hour, depending on the traffic.

cities to visit near france

Gisors is one of the best small towns near Paris to visit for history lovers. It is located only 70 km north of the French capital, on the banks of the River Epte, in the Normandy region. 

Gisors is the historical capital of the Norman Vexin (Eure) and is well worth a visit for its picturesque architecture of old half-timbered houses and listed heritage. The town is best known for its medieval château , which is one of the best castles in Normandy . The castle was an important fortress for the English Kings – who were also Dukes of Normandy – and was built in the 11th century to help protect the region from the King of France. From the top of its keep, visitors can enjoy a superb view of the town and Epte Valley.

Other interesting things to see in Gisors are the Church of St. Gervais and St. Protais from the 12th-16th centuries, which has a remarkable Renaissance façade, a Flamboyant Gothic nave, and a radiant Gothic chancel.

What to Do in Gisors:

HOW TO GO FROM PARIS TO GISORS

By Train: there’s no direct train to Gisors, but nothing is lost! From Paris Gare du Nord, take the Translien train line H to Pontoise, then line J to Gisors. The total journey usually takes less than 2 hours (one way, waiting time in Pontoise included).  There’s no need to book train tickets in advance.

By Car:  Paris to Gisors by car is a 70 km drive which lasts less than 1 hour. Try to leave the French capital early in the morning to avoid the rush hours.

Beautiful Towns Near Paris (Centre-Val- de-Loire )

18. chartres.

Chartres Cathedral France

Chartres is one of the most attractive big towns /small cities near Paris to visit. It is located 96 km south of Paris, in the region of Centre-Val-de-Loire.

Chartres is best known for its impressive Gothic Cathedral , one of the Grandes Cathédrales de France , and (like Amiens Cathedral or Saint-Denis Basilica-Cathedral ) an essential milestone in the evolution of Gothic Cathedrals in Europe. The Chartres Cathedral is famous for its 13th-century labyrinth designed on the pavement, the largest one built in France! Pilgrims used to walk this labyrinth seeking healing or meditation.

Apart from the magnificent Cathedral, Chartres has a cute historical center with some half-timbered houses. We suggest walking down to the River Eure where you can see pretty small houses, some of them with their private boats.

Things to Do in Chartres

  • Chartres en Lumières (sound and light show)

HOW TO GO FROM PARIS TO CHARTRES

Chartres is one of the easiest short-day trips from Paris by train. Direct trains leave from Paris Gare de Montparnasse to Chartres Train Station every 30 minutes (1h 10min ride).

>> Click here to book your train tickets to Chartres

By Car:  Paris to Chartres is an 88.5 km drive which takes around 53 min, depending on the traffic.

BEST DAY TOUR FROM PARIS TO CHARTRES

Spend a relaxing day exploring the Chartres Cathedral and the medieval houses along the Eure River with this 5-hour guided tour . The tour includes hotel pickup and drop-off, transportation on a private vehicle, and a knowledgeable English guide.

If you are wondering where to stay outside Paris, Chartres can be a good choice. The Chartres en Lumières Show (light show from dusk to 1 am in the summer) is a great excuse to extend your trip and spend one night in Chartres.

>> Click here for the best hotels in Chartres

Best Small Towns Near Paris (Grand Est)

19. éperney & hautvillers.

Hautvilliers France

If you are willing to explore the French countryside near Paris, Epernay and Hautvillers are the best towns near Paris to visit. Epernay is located 140 km southwest of Paris, in the region of Grand Est .

In the heart of the Champagne vineyards, Epernay is the capital of champagne wine. In this small town near Paris, the most luxury champagne brands, like Moët-Chandon, Vranken, Mercier, Pol Roger, or Perrier-Jouët, have their headquarters and champagne cellars.

Epernay’s main avenue, Avenue de Champagne , is considered the most expensive avenue in the world! Beautiful private mansions line up on the surface. Below the ground, kilometers of galleries house millions of bottles of the best champagne wine.

The village of Hautvilliers , north of Epernay, is also worth visiting. Here, the monk Dom Perignon developed the method of champagnisation of wine. Dom Perignon is buried inside this abbey, just in front of the main altar.

Things to Do in Epernay & Hautvillers

  • Champagne tasting and shopping from small producers
  • Champagne tours

HOW TO GO FROM PARIS TO EPERNAY

By Train: trains to Epernay leave Paris from Paris Gare de l’Est to Epernay train station every 2 hours (1h 15 min). If you want to add Hautvillers to your Epernay trip, we recommend taking a taxi (5km, 10 minutes drive).

>> Click here to book your train tickets to Epernay

By Car: Paris to Epernay by car is a 140 km drive which lasts about 1 hour 15 min.

BEST DAY TOUR FROM PARIS TO EPERNAY

Explore the Champagne wine-producing region with this small-group guided tour with private transportation and some tastings included. Learn the basics of champagne wine, from the growing to the tasting, and tour the House of Moët & Chandon, the world’s largest producer of champagne.

The tour also includes a visit to Reims Cathedral, where the Kings of France were crowned.

And there you have it, the list of the best small towns and other beautiful places near Paris to visit on a day trip. If you can travel further, check out this France Travel Guide

Click here for more Side Trips from Paris

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Some interesting articles in the blog

  • Read our Paris for the First Time Quick Guide  here
  • Find things to eat in Paris  here
  • Explore the Paris Districts here

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Quirky parisian explorers with a preference for lesser-known sights, we are continuously looking for new ideas and tips to bring you the best of the city of light read more about us ., we’re elisa, norbert, valérie, and cédric, four travel bloggers and friends living in paris. quirky explorers with a preference for the local side of our city and its lesser-known sights, we are continuously looking for new ideas to enjoy the best of paris & around . do you want to go beyond the louvre museum or the eiffel tower keep clicking for first-hand information & our best tips learn more about us.

8 best cities to visit in France and what you can do in each

Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux in France

Paris’ iconic landmarks, the sun-kissed French Riviera, Bordeaux’s verdant vineyards…list goes on. France ’s cultural and natural offerings are staggering, not just in volume but in terms of charm and diversity. It’s no surprise that painters and poets have flocked to France to be inspired.

We’ve rounded the best cities to visit in France and what you can do in each. Don’t forget to check out our guide to the best times to visit France to plan your next French vacation.

Aerial view of Louvre Pyramid in Paris, France

Paris is obviously one of the top cities to visit in France. Spend a few days checking out bucket list sights like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre . There are so many things to do in Paris but remember to save a few days to explore local neighborhoods like Rue Cler , the Marais district , and the Latin Quarter .

The Parisian calendar is packed with events throughout the year. The best time to visit Paris is in the fall when the summer crowds have dwindled. Partake in the celebration of French food at the French Cuisine Festival ( Fête de la Gastronomie ) in September and Paris Chocolate Show ( Salon du Chocolat ) in October.

Where to stay: Take your Paris trip to the next level by splurging on hotels with the best views of the Eiffel Tower like Hotel Plaza Athenee and Hôtel La Comtesse .

Rouen city in France

Just 1.5 hours by train from Paris, Rouen , the capital city of Normandy , is one of the most beautiful cities in France, filled with over 2,000 half-timbered houses dating back to the late Middle Ages. Walk down Rue du Gros-Horloge and marvel at the much-photographed Great Clock ( Gros-Horloge ). Look for the towering cast iron spires of the tallest church in France, Notre Dame Cathedral of Rouen .

Visit Rouen in spring when the flowers bloom and join the Joan of Arc festival in May to commemorate the French heroine who was burnt at the stake in the town. Learn more about her bravery at the Church of Saint Joan of Arc and the Joan of Arc Museum .

Where to stay: Pamper yourself at the historic Hotel de Bourgtheroulde in the city center.

3. Bordeaux

A girl running across the water mirror in Bordeaux France

Hop on an eastbound high-speed train in Paris and you’ll arrive in Bordeaux in just two hours. The elegant port city boasts many historical and heritage sites. Join a walking tour to explore breathtaking spots like the Place de la Bourse and the mesmerizing “ Water Mirror ”, said to be the world’s largest reflecting pool.

Bordeaux is the gateway to the wine region of France. Join a wine-tasting tour to Saint Émilion to experience the magic of French wine. Plan a trip in the fall so you can participate in the traditional grape harvest festival.

Where to stay: Unwind after your long days of exploration in cozy boutique hotels like L'Hotel Particulier and Yndo Hotel .

Beach goers relaxing on a beach in Nice, France

The sparkling capital of the Côte d'Azur , Nice is a popular spot to start your escapade in the Mediterranean coast. It’s a convenient base to explore other seaside towns like Antibes and Villefranche-sur-Mer as frequent train and bus connections run through the area.

Other than relaxing by the glorious beaches, hike up Castle Hill for sensational scenery. Nice is home to boutique vineyards perched on the coastal hills that you can visit on a leisurely bike tour .

Nice is more pleasant in September and October without the crowds. For a different experience, visit in winter and be swept away by the energy of the long-running Nice Carnival in February when colorful floats and the Mardi Gras vibe takes over the coastal city.

Where to stay: Indulge in resort-style properties flanking the famous Promenade des Anglais like Hotel Le Negresco and Le Meridien Nice .

People walking along a river in Lyon, France

Positioned comfortably between Burgundy and Provence , Lyon is France’s third-largest city. The metropolitan city is easy to get to—just under two hours from Paris–but difficult to leave with its eclectic offerings.

Join a guided tour in Lyon to discover the covered passageways in Vieux Lyon . You’re in for an epicurean adventure as Lyon, the culinary capital of France, is the birthplace of bouchons , casual bistros where traditional French food is perfected. Be dazzled by the cavernous food market Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse and Michelin-starred restaurants.

Lyon is the ideal launchpad to the French countryside like Rhône Valley and the magnificent French Alps .

Where to stay: Make Presqu’île , the city’s island nestled between the Rhône and Saône rivers, your base and spend your nights in Hotel Carlton Lyon or Hotel des Celestins .

Palace in Dijon, France

Dijon is a feast for all senses from its elegant medieval buildings to its gastronomic delights. Follow the fascinating Owl’s Trail to cover the city’s main attractions.

Dijon is the capital city of Burgundy , the serene and cultivated region of France that produces outstanding wine. You’ll be spoiled by the wide range of vineyards and wine-tasting activities .

Visit in the fall and be welcomed by stunning foliage and the smell of fresh grape harvests. Don’t miss the annual Dijon International Gastronomy Fair in November where you can savor the finest French products like Dijon’s renowned spicy mustard and wine-infused escargots.

Where to stay: Check out the impressive range of accommodation, from the Michelin-recommended Grand Hotel La Cloche Dijon to a beautiful monastery-turned-hotel Appart'Hotel Odalys Les Cordeliers .

7. Marseille

Vieux Port in Marseille, France

The port city Marseille is France’s second-largest and often underrated city. Connected to most parts of France via trains, Marseille is a vibrant city that’s refreshingly different from other French cities. Soak in the unique atmosphere of Marseille by wandering through its old port and the multicultural Panier District .

Venture beyond central Marseille and join a bike tour to explore the rocky coastal inlets in the Calanques National Park . Fall is a perfect time to do outdoor activities here. In October, the city hosts Fiesta des Suds, a music festival.

Where to stay: Hotel la Residence du Vieux Port and Grand Hotel Beauvau Marseille Vieux Port have enviable locations by the old port and guests are treated to stunning views of the waterfront.

Pink blooms in Rennes, France

Tucked in the north-western part of Brittany , Rennes is a lively city and the region’s hub–just a swift 2-hour train ride from Paris. Swing to the rhythm of the French way of life in Rennes by strolling through bustling weekend morning markets in Place des Lices .

Enjoy lots of crêpes—the classic French crêpe is Brittany’s gift to the world—with locally produced cider. Thanks to Brittany’s coastline, fresh oysters are available all year round.

Visit Rennes in spring to immerse yourself in the relaxing vibe when popular spots are not packed yet. Embark on single or multi-day tours to nearby attractions like Mont-Saint-Michel and Saint-Malo .

Where to stay: Boutique hotels like Le Saint-Antoine Hotel & Spa and Balthazar Hôtel & Spa are irresistible with their top-notch services and facilities.

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10 Best Small Towns in France for Beautiful Beaches and Vineyards, Mountain Trails, and Medieval Castles

Skip the line at the Louvre and visit these small towns in France, where the crowds are fewer and the pace is slower.

Evie Carrick is a writer and editor who’s lived in five countries and visited well over 50. She now splits her time between Colorado and Paris, ensuring she doesn't have to live without skiing or L'As du Fallafel.

cities to visit near france

It must be hard being a small town in a country that's home to one of the most iconic cities in the world . But while Paris gets all the attention (and most of the tourists), clever travelers — both French and foreign — plan excursions to some of the country's lesser-known destinations , many of them small towns.

In these quaint French spots, travelers exchange the bustle of the city for wide-open beaches, mountain trails, medieval castles , and sprawling vineyards. From the French-German border to the Mediterranean coast to the mountainous intersection of France, Italy, and Switzerland, these small towns and villages (home to less than 15,000 people) are where you'll want to go when you're craving a slower pace and warm French hospitality.

Sandwiched between Marseille and Toulon in southern France lies the tiny town of Cassis, which often gets overlooked for other glitzier coastal destinations (here's looking at you, Saint-Tropez ). But what some people miss is a beautiful fishing port that's lined with steep, limestone cliffs and carpeted with pebbly beaches. The town itself showcases a palette of pastel-colored buildings and a great selection of sidewalk cafes that are ideal for people-watching.

Saint-Jean-de-Luz

Sitting on the French side of the French-Spanish border, Saint-Jean-de-Luz has a distinct Basque feel. Fishing boats line the harbor while the beach scene attracts surfers who come to play in the breaks at Plage de Lafitenia and Belharra.

Sitting just south of Colmar near the French-German border, Eguisheim is a medieval village that's home to half-timbered houses, narrow streets, and castles that date back to the Middle Ages. If Eguisheim's historic architecture and buildings aren't enough to lure you for a visit, the Alsace Wine Route , which the destination is part of, might.

With a name that's oh-so-French, Vogüé is situated right on the Ardèche river near the beautiful Parque Natural Regional de los Montes de Ardeche . The village is as picturesque as it gets, with cobblestone streets, a medieval castle, and limestone cliffs that seem to shoot straight out of the water. (Bonus: If you happen to visit during the fall, you might catch the harvesting of chestnuts, a popular product in the region.)

Île de Porquerolles

From the city of Toulon, you can hop on a ferry that drops you off in Porquerolles, the largest of the three Hyères Islands (Îles d'Hyères). The beaches in Porquerolles are unbelievably smooth, the snorkeling superb, and the views stunning — the island is located just off the French Riviera .

Les Baux-de-Provence

Built into a rocky outcropping that's part of the Alpilles mountain chain, the setting of Les Baux-de-Provence is rugged and wildly impressive. It takes just a few days to discover fields brimming with lavender (usually mid-June to mid-July) and the Carrières de Lumières , a former quarry that now features works of art projected onto the underground cave walls and accompanied with music.

Arcachon is set inside the protected Arcachon Bay, not far from the wine-rich city of Bordeaux . And while the sea is one of the town's main draws (it's also known for its oysters), you'll find a natural sand dune, beautiful 19th-century villas, and a beachfront promenade full of walkers and bikers, too.

Villard-de-Lans

Outside Grenoble, near the border of Italy and Switzerland, is the beautiful mountain town of Villard-de-Lans. In the winter, people come to ski the snowy slopes, while the summer offers plentiful hiking and the area's finest fare (don't miss a visit to the twice-weekly farmers market).

This tiny town, located right on the French-German border, made a name for itself when a French TV show named it the "most beloved" village in France according to a local poll. Inside the town limits, you'll find historic timber houses, nearby vineyards, and a feel that showcases the best of France and Germany.

Unlike many of the small towns on this list, chances are you've heard of Chamonix (or Chamonix-Mont-Blanc), a town that's known for having some of the best skiing in Europe and a location at the base of Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps. The town is situated near the junction of France, Switzerland, and Italy, making day trips to other European countries a breeze.

Journey To France

8 Beautiful Cities Near Paris

By: Author Christine Rogador

Posted on Published: October 13, 2022  - Last updated: April 4, 2023

Are you looking for beautiful cities near Paris ?

Paris is a major tourist destination in France and one of the most visited cities in the country. The romantic atmosphere that the city exudes is one reason why Paris is considered to be the ‘City of Love’ .

An excursion to Paris is yet another once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that will give you the chance to learn about the city’s illustrious history, artistic legacy, and fascinating culture.

RELATED READ : Is Paris Expensive? What You Need To Know (2023)

There is so much to do in Paris. But if you want to explore more and discover other places close to Paris, there are a lot of beautiful cities to visit near Paris that will make your trip to France more memorable.

Find out the best cities and towns you can visit near Paris by going through this list.

Things you'll find in this article

1. Chantilly

2. fontainebleau, 5. chartres, travel tips and resources.

8 Beautiful Cities Near Paris

Chantilly is always on the list of cities near Paris. It is famous for its castle , which is actually comprised of two different chateaux: the Grand Chateau and the Petit Chateau.

The castle is connected to the extensive history of France because it was once home to the artists of the 17th century. During your time spent exploring the castle, you will find yourself surrounded by some of the most stunning old art collections in France that are stored in the Conde Museum.

However, in addition to the Conde Museum, the city of Chantilly is home to a number of other museums that are also well worth checking out. The Musée du Cheval, the Musée de la Dentelle, and the Great Stables, also known as the Grandes Ecuries, are some examples of these museums.

Chantilly is also surrounded by beautiful greenery. It is possible to go hiking in the Chantilly Forest for tourists who are interested in engaging in exciting activities.

Following your exploration of the city’s many tourist attractions, you might enjoy taking a leisurely stroll through the picturesque park that is located close to the castle. Moreover, Chantilly is widely known for its famous Creme de Chantilly. It was invented by one of the castle’s maîtres d’hôtels- François Vatel.

In addition, Chantilly can easily be incorporated into your day trip itinerary from Paris because it can be reached by train in just one hour.

Read More: Best Things To Do In Chantilly

Fontainebleau

Fontainebleau is located in the Seine-et-Marne, which is only an hour train ride from Paris. It is one of the gorgeous towns near Paris that is also known for its royal castle, Château de Fontainebleau. 

Since 1981, the castle has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site and is also considered to be the second-largest royal castle in France.

There are a lot of activities to enjoy in Fountainbleau which is perfect for picnic goers, hikers, and equestrians.  The city is well-known for equestrian sports, thanks to its racecourse and its Forêt de Bière forest, which spans 15,000 acres.

Read More: Best Things To Do In Fontainebleau

cities to visit near france

Lille is yet another place to visit near Paris that can be reached in about an hour by train. This picturesque city is well-known for its mesmerizing architecture, which features a blend of Gothic, Haussmannian, and modern styles.

This city located in the north of France has a vibrant nightlife, which is ideal for tourists who enjoy meeting new people and making new connections.

However, the Old Lille district is the most popular tourist destination in the entire city. It is an ideal destination for people who are interested in history because it is home to a number of baroque buildings, houses from the 18th century, and cobbled streets.

Lille’s rich culture and history can be seen in a number of places, including the Le Palais Des Beaux Arts De Lille, one of France’s largest museums dedicated to art and antiquities, and Maison Natale Charles de Gaulle, the birthplace of Charles de Gaulle , a former President of France who played a significant role in shaping the country’s history.

Read More: Best Things To Do In Lille

cities to visit near france

One of the best cities near Paris is Giverny . It is a 1-hour drive by car from Paris. But you also have the option to take the train which will take you approximately 2 hours and 30 mins. This small village in Normandy can be easily explored on a leisurely day trip from Paris.

Giverny is a famous city because this is where the impressionist painter Claude Monet settled for over 4 decades. The picturesque landscape of the city serves as a source of inspiration for artists as they work on their craft. 

In fact, the stunning natural scenery of Giverny served as the inspiration for the majority of Claude Monet’s landscape paintings. One of his most famous paintings was inspired by the iconic water lily pond and Japanese bridge of the Giverny Gardens.

Moreover, the city of Giverny is home to a museum that is dedicated to the art and history of the Impressionist movement. One of these is the Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny, also known as the Museum of Impressionism Giverny.

Read More: Best Things To Do In Giverny

Chartres

Another accessible city near Paris which is only an hour ride by train is Chartres City. Located in the Eure-et-Loir department, Chartres is a city near Paris that is home to a number of different places to worship. Due to this, it came to be the destination of pilgrims on Palm Sundays and during Whitsun.

The Notre Dame de Chartres Cathedral is the most well-known structure in all of Chartres. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the best-preserved cathedrals from the 13th century.

Its exquisitely decorated exterior draws tourists to visit the cathedral, where they are enthralled by the Gothic architecture and stained-glass windows that spruce up the interior.

Chartres is also known as the city of lights because of the annual Chartres Light Show. This event takes place between the last week of April and mid- October and features impressive light shows at 25 different buildings across the city, including Notre Dame de Chartres.

cities to visit near france

A 2-hour drive from Paris will take you to the city known for its textile industry, Troyes . Buildings dating back to the 16th century, as well as cathedrals and more modern structures, will be revealed to you as you travel throughout the city of Troyes.

In addition, the park in the Orient Forest, which is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, is open to visitors. Moreover, taking a trip to Troyes will give you the opportunity to try some of the regional delicacies, such as the prunes from Troyes, andouilette, and Chaource cheese.

Furthermore, McArthur Glen is situated just outside the city, making it a convenient location for those who want to go shopping for local and international brands at affordable prices. 

Read More: Best Things To Do In Troyes

Cathédrale Notre Dame Reims

Located in the north of the Champagne region is the city of Reims which is a 2-hour drive away from Paris. It has a very rich history where a vast number of significant buildings have been preserved.

The Notre Dame de Reims Cathedral, which is located in Reims and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, contributes to the city’s popularity. This architectural masterpiece was designed by Marc Chagall, and it features a Gothic architectural style.

The cathedral is known to be the crowning place of many Carolingian and Capetian kings, making the city nicknamed the ‘City of Kings’.

But aside from the Notre Dame de Reims Cathedral, Reims is a popular place in France that has many UNESCO World Heritage Sites including the Musee Saint-Remi an archeology and art museum, and Palais du Tau which was once the palace of the Archbishop of Reims.

After visiting Reim’s world-famous structure, you can take a break and unwind in one of the city’s many tourist cafes, which serve up delectable meals and beverages.

Read More: Best Things To Do In Reims

cities to visit near france

Although there are still quite a few cities close to Paris, Provins ought to be included on the list.  If you want to go to a place that will make you feel like you traveled back in time, Provins is a perfect place to go.

It is approximately an hour drive from Paris making it an ideal day trip. The town was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in January 2002 due to the presence of numerous ancient buildings from the medieval period.

During your time in Provins, there are many different activities that you can participate in and enjoy. Visitors can take in the awe-inspiring scenery from the emperor’s castle, or they can watch the knight’s performances. Moreover, you are welcome to pay a visit and attend mass at the Saint-Quirirace Collegiate Church, which is also situated in Provins.

In addition, now that Christmas is fast approaching, Provins hosts an annual medieval Christmas market where you can pick up some holiday decorations as well as presents for you or your loved ones.

Travel Insurance: I never leave home without travel insurance. My personal opinion is if you can afford to travel, you can afford to buy a travel insurance. All things can happen while on the road and you can never be too sure. And it's something that you'll be glad to have when you need it. For my preferred travel insurance, I use Safety Wing .

What To Wear: If you want some ideas on what to pack for France, check out this packing list guide for France .

Where To Stay: I personally use Booking.com for all my accommodations. Check out for their latest deals here .

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Christine Rogador in the Louvre

Hi, I’m Christine – a full-time traveler and career woman. Although I’m from the Philippines, my location independent career took me to over 40 countries and lived in 4 continents in the last 10 years, including France. A self-proclaimed Francophile, I love everything France.

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16 Best Towns and Cities Near Paris to Visit

A visit to the City of Lights is always a mesmerizing experience, but there’s more to explore outside Paris. Many towns and cities near the French capital are worth a visit, offering unique experiences, culture, and sights. From charming small villages to historically significant cities, these picturesque destinations promise an enchanting escape from the hustle and bustle of Paris.

Château lovers and history enthusiasts will find the royal city of Versailles an essential destination. The grandeur of the Royal Palace is a sight to behold, with its opulent architecture and sprawling gardens.

Other nearby cities and towns boast rich heritage and charm – from Chantilly’s stunning castle, to Deauville’s beautiful beach and palaces, and the lovely small towns capturing the essence of rural France. Making the most of your trip to Paris also requires knowing some essential travel tips. Whether it’s navigating the city’s top attractions or discovering hidden gems, being informed and prepared will make your visit a truly unforgettable experience.

By exploring the captivating towns and cities near Paris , you will soon cherish the memories of your French adventure. Here are some towns and cities near Paris worth visiting.

Table of Contents

Versailles – Royal Vibes Galore

Chartres – a gothic beauty worth visiting, chantilly – a blend of art, history, and horse racing, lille – vibrant and historical, giverny – a brush with nature’s beauty, blois – gateway to the loire valley, fontainebleau – where nature meets royalty, rouen – medieval charm meets modern vibrancy, provins: medieval village in the heart of france, exploring auvers-sur-oise, orléans: the joan of arc city, amiens: where history, culture, and warmth converge, reims – cheers to the champagne capital, vézelay: the spiritual and artistic retreat, troyes: a journey back to medieval times, vaux-le-vicomte: a luxurious historical retreat, frequently asked questions, what are some picturesque towns near paris, which cities can be reached from paris via a short train ride, where should i visit for a day trip near paris, what are the best french countryside locations close to paris, which cities north of paris are worth exploring, what are the most charming fairytale towns near paris.

Versailles, France: Ultimate Royal Palace - Rick Steves’ Europe Travel Guide - Travel Bite

Versailles, a city steeped in history and opulence, is an ideal day trip from Paris, situated just about 20 kilometers away. Known as the home to the grand and luxurious Palace of Versailles, this town has an unparalleled allure with its royal vibes and architectural splendor.

The Palace of Versailles, once the residence of King Louis XIV, is an iconic symbol of French royal grandeur. A testament to lavish taste and artistic excellence, the palace boasts rich decorations and unquestionable architectural brilliance. A must-see attraction within the royal palace is the glittering Hall of Mirrors, a room with gilded walls, ceiling paintings, and floor-to-ceiling mirrors where iconic events such as the Treaty of Versailles were signed.

Surrounding the palace are the mesmerizing Gardens of Versailles, meticulously designed and impeccably maintained. Spread over 800 hectares, the gardens offer a serene escape with their symmetrical floral arrangements, pristine lawns, and more than 200 statues dotting the landscape. Make sure to visit the Apollo Fountain, a skillful blend of sculpture and waterworks that showcases the mastery of the garden’s designers.

While the town of Versailles is irrevocably linked to the royal palace, it also offers a quaint atmosphere beyond the grand palace and grounds. Stroll along the historic streets, soaking in the ambiance of traditional French cafés, charming boutiques, and impressive architecture.

When planning your visit to Versailles, remember that public transport is easily accessible, with frequent trains from Paris. This fascinating city near Paris is a must-visit for anyone intrigued by the grandeur of French history, the allure of royal power, and the intriguing story of the sun king, Louis XIV.

Chartres view from the cathedral terrace

Chartres, a picturesque town located in the Eure-et-Loir department, is just a short day trip away from the city center of Paris. This charming destination is known for its magnificent Chartres Cathedral, a prime example of European Gothic architecture.

The Chartres Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, stands as the town’s centerpiece. It boasts exquisite art and craftsmanship, notably its stunning stained-glass windows. Most of the original windows have been preserved, allowing visitors to experience their beauty and historical significance.

But the allure of Chartres doesn’t stop at the cathedral. While exploring the town, visitors can also walk along its quaint cobblestone streets, admire well-preserved medieval houses, and soak in picturesque views. The town center’s charming cafés, restaurants, and small shops provides a pleasant and relaxing atmosphere.

For those interested in art and culture, Chartres offers the opportunity to visit the Fine Arts Museum and International Stained-Glass Centre. Both venues celebrate the town’s rich artistic heritage and provide insight into the techniques and history of stained-glass creation.

One of the unexpected marvels of Chartres is the annual light show, Chartres en Lumières. This event, typically held between April and October, transforms the town into a mesmerizing spectacle of light and sound. Historic sites such as the Chartres Cathedral, public squares , and streets come alive every evening with enchanting illuminations, making it a must-see experience for visitors.

Chantilly: France's castle of princes • FRANCE 24 English

Chantilly, a charming town situated near Paris, France, is widely celebrated for medieval architecture, its Château de Chantilly , art, and rich equestrian history. The town was born from the will of the Grand Condé, cousin of Louis XIV and owner of the Château. In 1692, his son ordered the construction of the Notre-Dame Church, marking Chantilly’s development into an independent parish.

The grandeur of the Château de Chantilly is perfectly complemented by the enchanting collection of artwork housed in the Musée Condé, one of the finest art museums in France. Art enthusiasts visiting Chantilly can feast their eyes on the exquisite paintings and sculptures adorning the museum’s walls. Horseracing has been an integral aspect of Chantilly’s identity. Since 1834, the town has garnered worldwide recognition for its prowess in equestrian sports.

It is home to some of the most eminent racing facilities, including the Chantilly Racecourse, the renowned Musée du Cheval, and the magnificent Grandes Écuries. These establishments collectively offer visitors an opportunity to immerse themselves in France’s profound equestrian culture.

One notable experience that Chantilly offers to visitors is a tour of the Musée du Cheval, situated within the Grandes Écuries. This museum is dedicated to the history and role of horses in the region and is an essential stop for equine enthusiasts. In addition, visitors should not miss the opportunity to witness a race at the Chantilly Racecourse, a true spectacle of equine agility and speed.

While indulging in the beauty and history of historical city of Chantilly, ensure to treat your taste buds to the local culinary delight, the crème Chantilly. This delicate whipped cream is a delightful finish to any meal, encapsulating the essence of French gastronomy.

Is This the Most Underrated City in France!? (1hr from London 🚆) Lille Travel Vlog

Lille, a lively city in northern France, is situated just two hours away from Paris and makes for an excellent destination for those seeking day trips from the French capital. The city’s vibrant atmosphere is complemented by its rich historical heritage, ensuring a delightful experience for visitors.

In the heart of Lille, you will find the Grand Place, a bustling square surrounded by beautiful architecture. This prominent location is the ideal starting point for exploring the city and immersing yourself in its local culture. With numerous shops, cafes, and restaurants lining the square, something is always happening at the Grand Place.

As you wander through Lille’s streets, be sure to venture into the Old Town, locally known as Vieux Lille. This charming district boasts a unique blend of Flemish and French architecture, with baroque elements dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries. Cobblestone streets and impeccably restored bourgeois houses transport you back in time while providing a picturesque backdrop for your visit.

Another noteworthy aspect of Lille’s Old Town is its array of interesting museums and galleries. Travelers interested in history and art will be thrilled to discover all the cities’ various exhibitions, showcasing everything from antiquities to contemporary works.

Giverny Normandy France - Walking Tour 4K - Beautiful French Village near Paris

Giverny , a picturesque village located approximately 70 kilometers northwest of Paris, provides an ideal day trip for art enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. Best known for its connection to the world-famous Impressionist artist Claude Monet, this quaint French town allows visitors to immerse themselves in the stunning landscapes that inspired some of Monet’s most beloved works.

The primary attraction in Giverny is the Foundation Claude Monet, which consists of Monet’s former residence and his magnificent gardens. Guests can wander through the vibrant surroundings, admiring the blooming flowers and the iconic water lily pond that inspired Monet’s renowned Water Lilies series. To delve further into the world of Impressionism, the nearby Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny showcases various artists from the Impressionist movement, offering a comprehensive look at this influential artistic period.

When planning a day trip from Paris to Giverny, there are multiple transportation options to consider. Traveling by car takes approximately 1.5 hours, and travelers can follow highway A13 towards Rouen before exiting 14 or 16 to reach Giverny.

Alternatively, visitors can opt for the train, which arrives at the nearby station of Vernon and requires a short transfer to Giverny. Giverny’s natural beauty extends beyond the well-trodden paths of Monet’s gardens .

The town’s idyllic location along the Seine River allows for peaceful strolls and picturesque views. With its charming streets, vibrant art scene, and accessible location, Giverny represents an enchanting and memorable escape from the bustling city of Paris.

A Look At The Beautiful Town of Blois, Loire Valley, France

Blois, a charming city nestled on the banks of the Loire River, is the perfect day trip destination for travelers looking to escape the bustling city of Paris. Located only one hour and 22 minutes from Paris by train, Blois offers an ideal starting point for exploring the Loire Valley’s famous castles and picturesque towns. The star attraction of Blois is its royal château.

Positioned on a hillside overlooking the Loire River, the castle has been a favored stronghold of kings throughout history. Its grand façade and intricate Renaissance architecture are best appreciated from the lovely square and adjacent park . Visitors can feel the rich history while strolling through the castle’s hallways and admiring its well-preserved wonders.

Beyond the château, there’s plenty more to discover in this enchanting city. The medieval old town is brimming with winding cobblestone lanes and charming churches, offering a glimpse into the life of past centuries. The gardens sprinkled throughout Blois provide opportunities to enjoy a serene moment amid the city’s vibrant greenery.

For those interested in outdoor activities, the surrounding Loire Valley is an ideal setting. The spring and autumn months offer pleasant temperatures for walking and cycling, providing a comfortable way to explore the lovely towns and cities along the river. Among these destinations, travelers will find Nantes, Angers, Saumur, Tours, Amboise, and Orleans – beautiful towns each with their unique allure and history.

🇫🇷 Beautiful French castle Fontainebleau | Day trip from Paris | How to go to Fontainebleau

Fontainebleau, a charming town in France, is a popular day trip location known for its rich history, beautiful palaces, and stunning natural landscapes. Fontainebleau offers visitors a unique opportunity to experience French culture, architecture, and nature with its invaluable proximity to Paris.

The primary attraction of this picturesque town is the Château de Fontainebleau, one of the largest royal palaces in France. Steeped in history, the château played an essential role in the country’s past and served as a residence for French monarchs for centuries. Today, visitors can explore the various halls, galleries, and opulent interiors adorned with valuable art and intricate designs, reflecting the luxurious lifestyle of French royalty.

Surrounding the Château de Fontainebleau, visitors can enjoy the splendid Château de Fontainebleau Gardens & Park, offering a serene atmosphere with manicured lawns, picturesque water features, and well-tended flowerbeds. A leisurely stroll through the gardens further enhances the royal experience and serves as a gateway to another significant attraction – the Fontainebleau Forest.

The Forêt de Fontainebleau, beginning just 500 meters south of the château, covers an area of approximately 280 square kilometers and is one of the most beautiful woods in the region. A haven for outdoor enthusiasts, the forest serves as an excellent location for activities like rock climbing, cycling, walking, and even wild-water swimming and canoeing during warmer months.

Reaching Fontainebleau is a seamless journey from Paris, with trains frequently operating between the two locations. The travel time is approximately 40 minutes, making it a convenient day trip for those who wish to explore more of France’s beauty beyond the boundaries of its iconic capital city.

Visiting Fontainebleau allows travelers to experience the intricate blend of nature and royalty in a captivating, serene setting. Its proximity to Paris, rich history, and stunning landscapes make Fontainebleau an appealing destination for both locals and tourists looking to get a glimpse of France’s royal past and natural wonders.

Rouen France Travel Guide: 10 BEST Things To Do In Rouen

Nestled in the heart of Normandy, Rouen is a captivating medieval town just a short distance from Paris. Steeped in history and boasting a wealth of gothic architecture, this gem of a city offers visitors a perfect blend of the past and present.

As the capital of Normandy, Rouen is known for its striking Rouen Cathedral, which held the title of the world’s tallest building for four years in the late 1870s. Its neo-gothic tower serves as an impressive testament to the city’s architectural prowess and is a must-see for any visitor.

The historical significance of Rouen extends beyond its beautiful cities and its architectural marvels. It is also the place where Joan of Arc met her untimely fate. To explore her legacy and delve into the rich tapestry of the region’s history, a visit to the city’s Joan of Arc Museum is highly recommended.

A stroll through Rouen’s charming Old Town will transport you back in time. Here, cobbled streets and half-timbered buildings provide a picturesque backdrop as you meander among the vibrant shops, bustling markets, and inviting cafes. The city’s signature charm comes to life in this maze of delightful alleys and plazas, offering a unique and authentic glimpse of French life.

Rouen’s modern vibrancy shines through in its thriving art and culture scene. The numerous galleries and museums, including the Museum of Fine Arts and the Gros Horloge astronomical clock, showcase the city’s appreciation for both historical and contemporary works.

Day Trips from Paris: Provins, France - A Medieval Town Just Outside of Paris

Located just 90 km southeast of Paris, Provins is a picturesque medieval town well worth a visit. This UNESCO World Heritage site boasts a rich history dating back to the Middle Ages, making it a perfect day trip destination for those looking to indulge in a journey through time.

The town’s vast network of well-preserved walls, constructed between the 11th and 13th centuries, houses an array of historical marvels. One iconic landmark is the Tour César , a massive 12th-century tower that once served as a watchtower and prison. Visitors can climb to the top to enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.

Another must-see attraction is the labyrinth, an innovative garden feast for the senses. Visitors can wander through the intricate network of pathways, surrounded by medieval-themed sculptures, fragrant flowers, and enchanting surprises.

In addition to its historical monuments , Provins offers a variety of entertaining activities. Live medieval-themed shows and reenactments bring the spirit of the Middle Ages to life, providing an immersive experience for guests of all ages. Explore charming timber-framed houses and experience the warm atmosphere of the town, away from the bustling Parisian streets .

Numerous shops and markets throughout the village offer regional products, making it a great spot to pick up souvenirs or sample authentic French cuisine. Don’t miss the opportunity to stroll along the ancient cobblestone streets and appreciate the well-preserved history that defines this quaint medieval town.

DISCOVERING Auvers-sur-Oise, the last resting place of VINCENT VAN GOGH/Life in France with Shalinee

Auvers-sur-Oise is a charming, picturesque town located just an hour away from Paris. Easily reachable by train, this small town is a popular destination for art enthusiasts and history buffs alike. One of the main attractions in Auvers-sur-Oise is its connection to the famous Impressionist painter, Vincent van Gogh.

During his time in the town, van Gogh was incredibly productive, creating numerous masterpieces that capture the beauty and essence of the area, including the renowned Church at Auvers . Visitors to Auvers-sur-Oise can embark on a self-guided tour to relive the moments and follow the paths van Gogh tread, allowing them to see the locations that inspired some of his most iconic works.

Aside from its artistic history, Auvers-sur-Oise is home to the fascinating Absinthe Museum. This unique establishment is dedicated to fascinating history of the infamous drink absinthe, which was favored by many artists and writers during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Visitors can dive into the intriguing world of the “Green Fairy,” learning about its production, history, and the controversies that surrounded it.

As one meanders through the cobblestone streets of Auvers-sur-Oise, the true charm of this charming French town really comes to life. Vibrant flower gardens, the enchanting Oise River , and historical buildings can be found around every corner. With its art, history, and scenic beauty, Auvers-sur-Oise is a destination that offers a profound experience for those looking to explore the hidden gems of small towns near Paris.

ORLÉANS | The city of Jeanne d'Arc!

Orléans, a charming city located only 100km south of Paris, is known for its rich history and close association with Joan of Arc. It is situated along the picturesque Loire River, making it an ideal destination for those looking to explore the beauty of France beyond the capital city. As you stroll through the historic streets of Orléans, you cannot miss the significant influence of Joan of Arc, the city’s renowned heroine.

One of the must-visit sites is the Maison de Jeanne d’Arc at 3 place du Général-de-Gaulle. This half-timbered structure is a reconstruction of the city treasurer’s house where Joan stayed in 1429. Here, you can watch an excellent 15-minute film that traces her origins, accomplishments, and historical impact in both French and English.

Another notable location is the Centre Jeanne d’Arc , located on the edge of the former medieval city. This center serves as the home to the world’s leading documentary collection on the subject of the Maid of Orléans. Additionally, the city boasts various chapels and churches closely connected to Joan of Arc, such as the Notre-Dame-des-Miracles Chapel and St Paul’s Church.

Orléans also has remnants of its Roman and Medieval history, such as the Tour Blanche, or ‘white tower,’ standing alongside a portion of the Roman curtain wall. These vestiges add an extra layer of historical intrigue to your visit.

The city isn’t just rich in history; it also offers modern amenities, broad boulevards lined with sparkling boutiques, and elegant buildings. Whether you’re interested in exploring the life and legacy of Joan of Arc or simply enjoying the vibrant atmosphere, Orléans makes for an engaging day trip from Paris.

See Related: When Does the Eiffel Tower Sparkle? A Guide to its Stunning Light Display

Top 10 Best Tourist Places to Visit in Amiens | France - English

Amiens, a charming city in northern France, is an ideal day trip destination from Paris. Known for its rich history, cultural attractions, and inviting atmosphere, visitors will appreciate the unique experience that awaits in this picturesque locale.

One of Amiens’ most iconic landmarks is the Cathédrale Notre-Dame d’Amiens. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the largest Gothic cathedral in France and the largest in the world by volume. Constructed in 1220, the cathedral boasts intricate and astounding details that draw visitors from all over the globe. As a centerpiece of the city, the impressive cathedral is a must-see attraction for any Amiens visitor.

In addition to the impressive architecture of Cathédrale Notre-Dame d’Amiens, the city offers insight into regional history and diverse art forms at the Musée de Picardie. This expansive museum displays fascinating exhibits of local pre-history, fine arts, and ceramics. The variety of collections within the museum ensures that visitors will find something to pique their interest during their Amiens excursion.

The vibrant street life and friendly ambiance of Amiens make it a perfect escape from the bustling Parisian streets. Leisurely walks through quaint streets and leafy parks offer travelers a chance to appreciate the warmth and charm of this inviting city.

While exploring Amiens, visitors will have ample opportunities to indulge in succulent local cuisine and experience first-hand the engaging and youthful energy that stems from the city center’s thriving university and large university hospitals.

11 Best Things to Do in Reims, France - Travel Guide

Reims, the capital city of the Champagne-Ardenne region, is a must-visit destination for those interested in exploring France’s iconic Champagne and its rich history. Located just about 45 minutes away from Paris via the high-speed train TGV, Reims offers a quick and convenient day trip for visitors staying in the French capital.

Steeped in history, Reims boasts several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Palais du Tau and the stunning Gothic Notre-Dame de Reims Cathedral, where French kings were once crowned. The historical charm of Reims is also evident in its elegant buildings, cobblestone streets, and impressive monuments.

Of course, no visit to Reims would be complete without indulging in the world-renowned sparkling wine that hails from the Champagne region. Visitors have the opportunity to tour the cellars and vineyards of some of the most prestigious Champagne houses, such as Taittinger, Veuve Clicquot, and Mumm, and learn about the art and science behind the production of this exquisite beverage. Be sure to enjoy a glass (or two) of bubbly during your stay.

Apart from its historical and gastronomical allure, Reims provides an enticing selection of shops, restaurants, and cafes that cater to a range of tastes and budgets. Spend some time wandering the bustling pedestrian streets, or relax in one of the city’s inviting parks.

Vézelay Tourist Guide 🇫🇷 France

Located just a few hours from Paris, Vézelay is a small village in France that has captured the hearts of spiritual seekers, art enthusiasts, and travelers alike. Vézelay boasts a rich history and stunning architecture, making it a picturesque destination for those looking to unwind and explore.

The crown jewel of Vézelay is undoubtedly the Basilica of Saint Mary Magdalene, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a masterpiece of Romanesque architecture. This religious site has been a popular destination for pilgrims since the 11th century and continues to enchant visitors with its tranquil atmosphere and captivating sculptures.

Art lovers will find themselves drawn to the Jules Roy House and the Zervos Museum, two unique cultural institutions that showcase the region’s artistic heritage. The Jules Roy House is a beautifully preserved literary haven where the famous French author once lived. The Zervos Museum displays a collection of modern art from renowned artists such as Picasso, Calder, and Miró.

Vézelay is also a prime location for those interested in exploring the vinicultural aspect of the region. The village is surrounded by lush vineyards where one can partake in wine tastings and learn about the local winemaking traditions.

For a more adventurous and breathtaking experience, visitors can embark on a hot-air balloon flight over the Vézelay region, taking in the scenic views of the picturesque medieval village and surrounding Morvan Regional Nature Park. This activity offers an unparalleled perspective of the beautiful French landscape.

Visitors looking for a more immersive experience in nature can explore the Morvan park, as Vézelay provides easy access to this lush expanse of greenery. The Morvan Regional Nature Park is characterized by its forests, rivers, and rolling hills – making it an ideal setting for outdoor enthusiasts.

Unforgettable Paris Adventure: Explore the Mesmerizing Troyes Gothic Village

Troyes, located in the Champagne region of France, is a hidden gem that takes you on a captivating journey into a medieval town with beautifully preserved Gothic architecture. Just around 170 kms (105 miles) from Paris, it is easily accessible by train from Paris Est, taking about an hour and a half, or by car via the A5/E54.

The old town will capture your attention as you enter the city with its charming half-timbered buildings, cobbled streets, and vibrant atmosphere. The heart of Troyes lies in its rich history, which is evident in the numerous museums and remarkable monuments scattered throughout the city.

One of the most interesting places to visit in Troyes is the Museum of Modern Art in the former Bishop’s Palace. Acquired from hosiery manufacturers Pierre and Denise Levy, the museum exhibits an impressive collection of 19th and 20th-century art pieces. In addition, the Church of St. Jean showcases the city center’s historic Gothic architecture that attracts tourists and art enthusiasts alike.

Nature lovers can spend a peaceful time alongside the Canal du Trévois constructed in the 17th century, offering insight into the city’s history and development. Although the canal was never filled with water and fell into ruin, it remains a picturesque site worth exploring.

Vaux-le-Vicomte, situated southeast of Paris near Melun, is a prime destination for a day trip from the City of Lights. This lavish estate features a castle, which once belonged to Nicolas Fouquet, a finance superintendent during the early years of Louis XIV’s reign.

One of the major attractions of Vaux-le-Vicomte is its architectural harmony and collaboration between the landscape architect Andre Le Nôtre, the architect Louis Le Vau, and the famous painter-decorator Charles Le Brun. Together, they created the château’s stunning design that ultimately caught the young king’s attention.

The castle’s exterior is surrounded by well-manicured gardens, designed by Le Nôtre, offering a perfect balance between nature and architecture. As visitors explore the grounds, they will be mesmerized by the breathtaking landscapes that make this a sought-after retreat near Paris.

Inside the château, the Domed Grand Salon stands out as the centerpiece, showcasing elegant and royal decoration. This circular room offers stunning views of the formal gardens to the south and the Courtyard of Honor to the north. The harmonious blend of interior design and natural beauty is a testament to the collaborative genius of the creative trio behind Vaux-le-Vicomte.

Overall, a visit to Vaux-le-Vicomte allows guests to step back in time and immerse themselves in France’s rich history while enjoying luxurious surroundings. The easy accessibility from Paris makes this location an ideal choice for a picturesque day trip that also serves as an enlightening cultural experience.

Some picturesque towns near Paris include Giverny, known for Monet’s gardens and house; Colmar, with its colorful half-timbered houses and medieval buildings; and Gordes, a hilltop village in Provence with stunning views. Each of these towns boasts unique charms and is definitely worth a visit.

Cities that can be reached from Paris via a short train ride include Fontainebleau, home to a beautiful royal palace, and Chantilly, another elegant château surrounded by extensive gardens. Alternatively, you can visit Versailles, famous for its majestic palace and gardens.

For a day trip near Paris, consider exploring Versailles for its historical significance and grand architecture, or visit the town of Bayeux in Normandy, renowned for its medieval tapestry. Both destinations can be easily reached from Paris and promise to leave you with lasting memories.

The French countryside offers many beautiful locations close to Paris, such as the Loire Valley, known for its stunning castles and vineyards, and Champagne, world-famous for its wineries and bubbly. A visit to either of the cities close these regions will provide a delightful break from the city atmosphere.

Cities north of Paris worth exploring include Arras, with its medieval town square and underground tunnels used during World War I; Lille, a vibrant city with a rich history and notable architecture; and Rouen, the capital of Normandy known for its Gothic cathedral and historic charm.

For charming fairytale towns near Paris, consider visiting Colmar in the Alsace region, with its colorful half-timbered houses and cobblestone streets; or Provins, a medieval town with impressive fortifications and well-preserved architecture, perfect for immersing yourself in a fairytale-like atmosphere.

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cities to visit near france

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22 Beautiful Cities in France To Visit

Written By: The Planet D

Updated On: February 9, 2024

With its beautiful architecture, cobblestone streets that dance in the morning light, and a turquoise coast, France inspires the romantic in all of us. The most beautiful cities in France have maintained their allure through the eras. They tell stories of the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the French Revolution. It’s here you can walk the same path as Monet, to see the same brilliant landscapes that drove his most prized works.

Table of Contents

The Most Beautiful French Cities

Each French city has its own personality and its own take on French culture and cuisine. Cities in France didn’t pop up overnight; they were polished for centuries and now wait for your footsteps.

1. Paris (Capital City)

Paris is one of those destinations that must be visited at least once. It transcends those that wish to stay off the tourist trail on the sheer weight of amazing sights alone. One of the world’s iconic cities, the French capital, firmly belongs at the top of our list.

The City of Light, the home of the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre will quickly gain the attention of even the most cynical traveler. Start Planning with: 27 Free Things to do in Paris, France

Grand and splendid, you could spend an entire week in Paris exploring the historic streets that lead to the Arc de Triomphe or the Seine River Bridge that crosses to charming waterside parks. You will be floored by the sheer number of historic monuments, art galleries, and historic churches. Read: 3 Days in Paris: The Best Paris Itinerary for Your First Visit

The surrounding neighborhoods like the Latin Quarter still leave much to be explored. Where authentic local culture will greet you on arrival. Read more: 21 Best Hotels with Eiffel Tower Views

Home to UNESCO World Heritage Sites, a buzzing food scene, and rich cultural heritage, Lyon is one of the most beautiful cities in France. On the edge of two rolling rivers, the nation’s “Second City” is a delight for travelers who can wander down her medieval cobblestone streets through the Old Town. You may also like, The Best Day Trips from Paris.

Despite being one of the largest cities in France, its charm remains intact. Lyon boasts exceptional art galleries, such as the Musee des Beaux-Arts and interesting museums with historic Roman antiquities and Egyptian artifacts. Foodies will love Lyon. A leisurely stroll can lead to a whole manner of culinary adventures and authentic French cuisine.

Featuring Italian flair, a beautiful coastline, and a historic Old Town, Nice is the summer destination of your dreams. Showcasing the beauty of the French Riviera, Nice is a popular resort town with the spectacular Maritime Alps, creating a scenic backdrop. Read more: 24 Hours in Nice

The elegant city is a haven for culture hounds. Under the warm French sun, spend time exploring the pedestrian-friendly and iconic Promenade des Anglais, which envelopes the bay. Later, journey into the Old Town aka Vieille Ville, where awe-inspiring cathedrals and historic monuments shaped by Italian influence await.

As one of the most popular French cities for tourists, you can save by traveling in the shoulder seasons, in March, April, September, and October. You may also like: Enchanting Medieval Villages in France – The French Riviera

4. Marseille

2600 years ago, the first homes were built in what is now a bustling seaport. On the banks of the Mediterranean, the former European Capital of Culture, Marseille, is the oldest city in France and the second-largest city in France. But Marseille wasn’t always a modern cosmopolitan city. In fact, it had to shed a seedy reputation and sand off the rough edges during its 20th-century transformation. For this reason, Marseille can often feel different from other popular French cities.

There is an air of possibility as you explore, as if you may stumble upon hidden surprises around any corner. It makes walking around Marseille exciting. When paired with gourmet restaurants at Vieux Port, the historic quarter, and the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde, you can see why it’s on our list of beautiful France cities. Read more: Things to do in Marseille, France

5. Bordeaux

In southwest France, Bordeaux is the place to go for the best wine in the country. The charming city is not just home to exceptional wineries, but its position on Garonne River makes Bordeaux a veritable stunner, with its center a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Wander along graceful tree-lined boulevards to cozy cafes, boutique stores, and several museums. For excellent views, head to the top of the Pey-Berland Tower to gaze upon the picturesque city, shaped by the distinct urban planning in the 1700s and Neoclassical architecture. The main attraction in the Bordeaux region is of course, the local wineries, of which there are over 100,000. Some of the most popular include Medoc, Margaux, and St. Emilion.

One of the most interesting places to visit in northern France, Rouen is a delight for both history buffs and aficionados of half-timbered houses. A relatively small town to some of the other cities in France, Rouen is a journey back to the middle ages.

The capital city of Normandy, Rouen features quaint residences and beguiling architecture, where ancient Gothic churches loom around every corner. The prime example is the 13th century Cathedrale Notre-Dame, best depicted by Claude Monet. Perhaps Rouen’s greatest claim to fame is Joan of Arc. For it was here that she was sent on trial and later martyred.

7. Loire Valley (Unesco World Heritage Site)

Home to several beautiful France cities, the Loire Valley is a romantic escape in every sense of the world. Such is the history, culture, and aesthetics of the valley that it has become a UNESCO heritage site. Winding roads sweep through gorgeous meadows, leading you to old chateaus, cozy BnBs, and scenic wineries.

The best French cities in the Loire Valley include Tours, Saumur, and Orleans. The former is known as the Garden of France. Its location in between the Cher and Loire River will make your heart flutter. Here, 15th-century cobblestone streets meander between old townhouses, embellished fountains, and weeping willows. Read next: 11 Interesting and Fun Facts About France

8. St. Tropez

In the French Riviera, St. Tropez and extravagance go hand in hand. The town boomed in the middle of the 20th century as it attracted the rich and famous. Despite its popularity, the population remains a diminutive 4,300 people.

The city boasts a more leisurely pace, where the fishing boats come in and out of the old port, backed by bright and picturesque homes. Of course, if it’s partying and yachts that you seek, then you won’t find a shortage of that either.

Beyond the local museums, wander down to one of the many iconic beaches in St. Tropez, where the water is as blue as the sky above. Later, dine at La Tarte Tropezienne for mouthwatering desserts, before experiencing the coastal town’s celebrated nightlife.

Read More About Great European Cities

  • 14 Best European Capital Cities To Visit
  • 15 Most Beautiful Cities in Italy for Travelers
  • 33 Most Beautiful Cities in Europe to See
  • 16 Best Cities in Spain – Beautiful Places to Visit
  • The 16 Most Romantic Cities on Earth

9. Aix-en-Provence

In southern France, Aix-en-Provence is your chance to indulge in joie de vivre and embrace the local culture. The sun-soaked town is best lived outside, where you can venture down the old streets, stumbling across markets and hole-in-the-wall cafes.

Along the leafy Cours Mirabeau, you can experience authentic French cuisine in outdoor patios with the blue sky poking through the canopy. Afterward, wander through the Old Town without a care in the world, discovering charming squares and the Le Grand Marche. Fine arts are no stranger to Aix-en-Provence. Art lovers can make their way to Musee Granet, or explore the works of the luminary Paul Cezanne. Cezanne’s art is on display in multiple locations, including the open-air Terrain de Peintres.

No stranger to guides on the most beautiful cities in France, Cannes is a high-end beach experience. Home to the renowned Canned Film Festival held annually in May, the town offers both the Mediterranean and extravagant streets lined with high fashion and Michelin star restaurants. Check out 50 Best Travel Movies For Travel Lovers

Start your morning on some of the best white sand beaches in the French Riviera. The powder sand will float between your toes as you bathe in the sun of southern France.

Cannes isn’t easy on the budget, but you get what you pay for. Whether that be at any one of the up-scale resorts, gourmet restaurants, or mega yachts in the marina. But you don’t have to be a celebrity to enjoy Cannes. There are a variety of budget-friendly experiences such as the Croix des Gardes and the Le Marche Forville, that will have you feeling like a movie star.

11. Antibes

Between Cannes and Nice, the expansive coastline of Antibes awaits. The city’s alluring pine groves and the effervescent Mediterranean have predictably attracted artists as much as travelers throughout the years. If you’re handy with a brush, you’ll have no trouble finding inspiration in Antibes.

For us mere mortals, the camera must stay fully charged as you make your way through the Old Town, a fortified castle from the Medieval Era. Thin cobbled streets carve through the historic city. Ancient industries have long been replaced by waterfront restaurants, independent shops, and dim-lit cocktail bars.

Start every morning at Marche Provencal, where you can mingle with the local community, load up the basket with fresh produce and find the perfect spot for a picnic by the Mediterranean.

12. Bayonne

Taking a page out of the book of the canal houses in Amsterdam, Bayonne features similar colorful Basque houses along the serene Nive River. On either side of the river, you can witness the vibrant architecture, home to delicious restaurants and bars.

Bayonne is officially a “Town of Art and History” where historic churches complement the Basque Museum and the Old Castle (Chateaux Vieux). Much of Bayonne has been preserved or masterfully restored in order to represent Basque culture and heritage.

Aside from 13th-century buildings, Bayonne is also known as the French capital of chocolate. The tradition began in the early 17th century when Jewish Portuguese migrants settled in the town.

13. Toulouse

With its rose-hued buildings rising out of the storied streets, it’s easy to see why Toulouse is the “Pink City”. In southwestern France, Toulouse rose to prominence from the 1300s to the 1500s when pastel production reached its zenith. The powdered pigment brought gorgeous blues to the rest of France.

Its elegant Old Town harbors narrow cobblestone streets and expansive boulevards that are a delight to walk down, made even better by the city’s pristine weather. Along the way, you’ll find the red-brick buildings filled with an exciting food scene and atmospheric patios.

Toulouse has long been on the traveler’s trail. The Romanesque Basilique Saint-Sernin, is on the Camino de Compostela. The cathedral is a stunning example of the Pink City, with its brick composition changing slightly under the falling sun.

14. Chamonix

Home to the highest mountain in Western Europe, Mont Blanc, Chamonix is a storybook alpine town. Exploring the famous town, which played host to the 1924 Winter Olympics, will uncover a range of chalet-style structures, old and modern architecture.

While you could spend all day wandering the pristine streets, you’ll soon be inspired by the surrounding landscapes, none more than the towering Mont Blanc. Its summit stands 15,777 feet above sea level. Presenting a challenging and technical climb, the mountain remains a bucket list trek.

But you don’t have to strap on crampons to make it to the peak. With the help of the adorable Tramway du Mont Blanc, you can arrive without breaking a sweat while admiring the spectacular views.

Around town, you’ll find plenty of fun befitting of such a location. Ski the longest run in Europe, go whitewater rafting, or zoom down the mountain on the Alpine Coaster.

15. Strasbourg

On the cusp of the German border, Strasbourg combines French and Germanic culture with aplomb. The French city is the location of the European Parliament and also home to one of the best Christmas markets on the continent.

Since the end of the First World War, Strasbourg has remained French. But its unique heritage as a part of the Alsace region is a huge aspect of local culture. The 2000-year-old Strasbourg has a historic quarter on an island in the center of town, known as La Petite France.

Other top attractions include the second-most visited cathedral in all of France and the embellished Kammerzell House. The local cuisine is, unsurprisingly, delicious, combining the best of both worlds to delight the taste buds.

16. Honfleur

Small yet majestic, Honfleur is a historic port town made famous by Eugene Boudin and the works of Monet. For almost a millennium, ships have departed the local port with loaded cargo bound for England. The commercial hub surrounded itself with a medieval fort for protection, adding another layer of intrigue for tourists exploring in the modern era.

One of the smallest towns on our list, Honfleur, is as charming as it comes. Discover quintessential half-timber homes, old trawlers, and one of the best art galleries in France, the Eugene Boudin Museum.

But to appreciate the town’s history, head to its maritime museum, where you can learn about the sailors and shipbuilding in the early days of Honfleur.

Rising from the banks of the local river and canals, Annecy is known as the Venice of the French Alps. Surrounded by stunning mountain scenery, Annecy is an old regional capital and where you’ll find the breathtaking Lake Annecy.

Just like Venice , one of the best ways to see Annecy is from the water. Cruises and small boat trips will guide you along the narrow canals lined with eye-catching homes. From one body of water to another, head to the lake where its turquoise alpine waters lead to soaring peaks.

You’ll have to explore on foot to see the ancient Annecy Castle. In the center of town, the historic structure was built in the 14th century and remains at the heart of local life to this day.

Replacing vinegar with verjuice in 1856, Jean Naigeon forever changed the perception of this beautiful city in France. Dijon is now one of the most popular types of mustard around the world, but you’ll quickly forget that as you venture between architectural marvels, palaces, and monuments.

Dijon is the capital of Burgundy, home to the former Palace of the Dukes. The Dukes of Burgundy were high royalty in the Middle Ages, above everyone but the King himself. The Dijon region has become only smaller over the ensuing centuries, but its streets still tell the stories of medieval times.

You can experience the history and culture of old Dijon at the local museum and art gallery. Both free, learn about Burgundian life before exploring one of the oldest galleries in the nation. Unsurprisingly, Dijon is a culinary haven. You’ll find ample authentic cuisine, exceptional markets, and even old-fashion gingerbread cakes first made in the 1700s.

Visitors may flock to the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, but the largest such structure in France is right here in Amiens. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is just a short walk away from the first skyscraper ever built in Europe, the Tour Perret.

These are just two of the delightful treasures that await those that travel to Amiens. On the River Somme, the city harbors all the characteristics of French culture while remaining somewhat off the beaten path.

Here, art and literature are celebrated in the Musee de Picardie and the Maison Jules Verne, respectively. You’ll also find a medieval quarter-turned modern hot-spot, the Quartier Saint-Leu, home to a bustling food scene.

20. Montpellier

Among the maze of cobblestone streets is the wonderful city of Montpellier. A place where the wave of tourism has yet to roll through. Now a university town, Montpellier has a long and storied past. Tucked away from the Mediterranean, it’s often overlooked by those seeking the sun and sand on the coast. Leaving plenty of room for you to explore its charming streets, left untouched through the centuries.

Montpellier’s architecture will be the highlight of your time here. In the center of the city, you’ll find rows of historic buildings, with ornate facades and intricate stonework that are highlights of Renaissance architecture. For those that like to indulge in some people-watching, you can do just that in the enormous Place de la Comedie and under the city’s triumphal arch.

The varied neighborhoods combine the old eras with a personality more in-line with Montpelliers’ position near to the Mediterranean. Here you’ll find swaying palm trees above 17th-century homes and town squares enveloped with boisterous patios.

21. Grenoble

France’s own version of Silicon Valley, Grenoble, is still renowned for its breathtaking scenery, culture and Old Town. Backed by the French Alps, Grenoble is arguably the most wheelchair-accessible city in France. Its residents also have an immense sense of community pride.

The mountain city has its own greeters. Not your typical Walmart greeter, however. These are local “Grenoblois” who will be more than happy to show you around town, unveiling a whole host of local secrets.

Although a progressive city, its streets remain historic and its buildings as old as time. Explore the Old Town and its many museums before taking the Red Bubble high above the town, where you can appreciate the skyline and nearby mountains.

The old capital of the Dukes of Lorraine, Nancy, is home to a trio of remarkable squares, astonishing architecture and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Exploring on foot and without a plan is the best way to stumble upon endless Art Nouveau treasures, including the jaw-dropping Villa Majorelle. The Carriere and Alliance town squares will make your camera work overtime, but it’s the famous Place Stanislas that commands the bulk of your time.

The iconic landmark is a prime example of French elegance in the lead-up to the 18th-century revolution. Nancy is one of the rare French cities where modern history trumps ancient. Its urban designs are relatively recent, with the prominent square a part of the city’s New Town.

Getting Around France

Making your way around France is fairly simple. A national rail network connects all major cities and regions and is relatively inexpensive.

If you want more power over your adventure, you may wish to hire a car. Reserve ahead of time to guarantee the cheapest rates. Keep in mind that car rental agencies require drivers to be at least 21 years old (sometimes 25) who must have their own credit card.

While car rentals will make traveling between destinations a breeze, you may find a dearth of parking in major cities. The cost of tolls can also quickly add up. Check out prices on Car Rentals Here .

Public Transport

The best way to get around France is via train. The network is efficient, smooth, and simple. With regular departures, you won’t be scrambling at 4 am for the day’s only train. While from your window seat, you can enjoy the countryside float by.

For budget travelers, the bus network presents a valid alternative to the TGV rail network. The bus will help you cut costs, however, transit is slower and departures less frequent.

Plan Your Next Trip to France With These Resources

  • 11 Interesting and Fun Facts About France
  • 27 Free Things to do in Paris, France
  • France Travel Guide
  • Enchanting Medieval Villages in France – The French Riviera
  • Things to do in Marseille, France
  • How to Visit Paris on a Budget – 20 Tips to Save Money
  • 3 Days in Paris: The Best Paris Itinerary for Your First Visit

Travel Planning Resources

Looking to book your next trip? Why not use these resources that are tried and tested by yours truly.

Flights: Start planning your trip by finding the best flight deals on Skyscanner

Book your Hotel: Find the best prices on hotels with these two providers. If you are located in Europe use Booking.com and if you are anywhere else use TripAdvisor

Find Apartment Rentals: You will find the cheapest prices on apartment rentals with VRBO . 

Travel Insurance: Don't leave home without it. Here is what we recommend:

  • Allianz - Occasional Travelers.
  • Medjet - Global air medical transport and travel security.

Need more help planning your trip? Make sure to check out our Resources Page where we highlight all the great companies that we trust when we are traveling.

You May Also Like

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Home > France > 25 Best Villages Near Nice, France: Villages on the French Riviera

25 Best Villages Near Nice, France: Villages on the French Riviera

By Dymphe / January 10, 2023

Visiting the best villages near Nice is amazing if you're in France . There are gorgeous villages on the French Riviera you have to see!

Nice is a large city in France and going there is amazing. There are many things to do in Nice, such as seeing the castle of Nice and shopping. Even though there are many activities and sights, spending one day in Nice is perfect to see it all.

For that reason, when you're in Nice for a longer time, you can see even more! I'd definitely recommend seeing some gorgeous villages close to the city.

The amount of pretty little villages that are close to Nice will definitely surprise you!

As there are so many lovely villages, it can be hard to decide where to go. For that reason, I made this list of the best villages near Nice to help you out!

First, I'll give you some tips for visiting them. After that, you can find the list of the best villages. I also included information on how to get to all the villages.

Table of Contents

Tips for visiting the best villages near Nice

Visiting the best villages near Nice is a great experience that you'll enjoy for sure! But there are some ways to make your experience even better.

First, you can buy a day pass for the public transport in the city of Nice and its buses.

This can save you lots of money if you want to visit many places, such as these villages.

And this is especially so if you visit several villages in one day!

Second, when you are traveling all day, your phone may run out of battery.

In larger cities, there are lots of places where you can charge your phone. But in these small villages, there are almost no possibilities for that.

Thus, I recommend taking a battery pack with you. This allows you to travel all day without worrying about your phone running out of battery. It will make visiting the places much more convenient!

Best Villages Near Nice, France

Let's start the list! If you love beautiful villages with great things to do, I'm sure you will love these ones close to Nice.

Below, you can find the 25 best villages near Nice, France!

The first village is Èze. Èze is definitely one of the best villages near Nice. You can find this village about 8 miles (or 12.5 kilometers) from Nice.

Path in Èze, France

What's great about the village is that it is on top of a hill. From there you have a wonderful view of the sea! This makes it a very popular day trip from Nice.

Also, because you can find the village on top of a hill, it looks great from afar!

Èze, France

Another great thing about the village is the Jardin Botanique d'Èze. Here you can see all kinds of cacti.

You can also find beautiful picturesque buildings in the village. Many of these are from Medieval times.

Also, the village of Èze is a very convenient place to go to as there are many facilities. For example, there are lots of restaurants, shops, and hotels.

How to get there?

To reach the village, you can take bus 82 to Plateau de la Justice. This is a direct bus and the journey takes about 30 minutes.

2. Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat

Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat is another village you should see. You can find this village on a peninsula to the southeast of the city of Nice.

Blue water at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat in France

One of the reasons why it belongs to the best villages near Nice is its history. The history of the village stretches back to the time of Ancient Greece.

One of the best things to do see here is Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild . This is a beautiful villa, and the garden of the villa is one of the best gardens in France! Sind 1934 the villa is a public place, which is great!

Pink building in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat

Also, you can find beautiful beaches at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat.

To get to the village by public transport, you first need to take the train to Beaulieu-sur-Mer. From there, you can take bus 15 to the village!

3. Aspremont

The next one of the best villages near Nice is Aspremont.

House with red windows

From here you have a beautiful far view of the surrounding landscape.

The little streets of the village are wonderful to see and wander through. There are cobbled stone streets that look very picturesque.

House with leaves

Another great thing to see in this village is the pretty church with the bell tower.

To reach the village of Aspremont you can travel by public transportation. First, you need to take the L1 tram from Thiers Station to Comte de Falicon. From there you can take bus 76 towards Castagniers and you get off at the stop Village.

4. Cap-d’Ail

Another one of the best villages on the French Riviera is Cap-d'Ail. This is a beautiful village on the French Riviera that is close to the country of Monaco.

Water at Cap-d'Ail in France

Cap-d'Ail is a resort village with many shops. This makes it a great place to go to if you like shopping!

Also, there are many great beaches at Cap-d'Ail. Mala Beach is a great one that looks beautiful. Also, the nature that surrounds this beach is stunning!

What's great is that it is very easy to reach this village. That's because there is a direct train connection from the city of Nice. This train journey takes about 20 minutes.

Besides that, you can also go to the village by car. This journey takes about 40 minutes, which is much longer than the journey by train. Thus, I recommend going by train!

5. St Paul de Vence

Another one of the best villages near Nice is St Paul de Vence. It is a great Medieval village on the French Riviera.

View of St Paul de Vence

Another thing that makes this village special is the number of museums here. In particular, you can find here modern and contemporary art museums and galleries.

The combination of the old buildings in the village and the new art is amazing!

That's in part because many famous artists visited this village. Some of these artists include Picasso and Sartre.

You can get to the village of St Paul de Vence by car in about 30 minutes. The journey has a length of about 12 miles (or 20 kilometers).

Gourdon is also a great village near the city of Nice.

The best thing about this village is the wonderful views you can get here. That's because you can find Gourdon on top of a hill.

Gourdon in France

Another thing that is great about the village of Gourdon is the architecture you find here. There are lots of wonderful Medieval buildings and some of these date back to the 9th century.

Also, there are beautiful gardens in the village!

The easiest way to get to Gourdon is by car. The journey takes about 50 minutes and has a length of about 25 miles (or 40 kilometers).

7. Sainte-Agnès

Sainte-Agnès is a beautiful village near the city of Nice.

You can find the village on top of a hill. From there you have a wonderful view of the town of Menton and the sea!

Furthermore, many mountains surround the village, which is stunning too! That's also why Sainte-Agnès belongs to the best villages near Nice.

Also, the buildings of the village are lovely and very picturesque.

To reach the village of Sainte-Agnès, the fastest route is by car. The time it takes to do this trip from Nice is about 45 minutes.

Furthermore, if you want to travel by public transport, you can do so too! From Nice, you can first take a train to the town of Menton and then take a bus.

The next one of the gorgeous villages on the French Riviera is Peillon.

You can find the village surrounded by lots of mountains. It is a cluster of houses on a hill and this looks amazing!

Nature and Peillon in France

What's unique about the village is that there are no roads leading up to the village. There are only stairs!

You can get to the village of Peillon by public transport. For this, you first need to take bus 14 towards Les Chênes Verts and then get out at La Chaumière. From there, you can take bus 66 to La Turbie and stop at Le Téléphérigue. From there, you have to walk for about 30 minutes.

But the fastest way to get to the village is by car. This journey takes about 26 minutes.

9. La Turbie

Another one of the best villages on the French Riviera is La Turbie. It is also close to the country of Monaco, which you can see from the village.

This is a village with a long history that started during the Roman Empire, which is very interesting!

Street in La Turbie

You can find here the Trophy of Augustus, which is a large monument from that time. This monument celebrated the victory of Augustus over the tribes of Liguria.

This monument explains the name of La Turbie, which looks like the word for the trophy in Latin.

Getting to La Turbie by public transport is easy. You can take bus 66 from Pont Michel to La Turbie. This is a direct connection, which takes about 30 minutes.

The fastest way to get to the village is by car. This journey takes about 25 minutes.

10. Tourrettes-sur-Loup

Tourrettes-sur-Loup is another one of the best villages near Nice.

You can find here lots of medieval buildings that look amazing.

Furthermore, the village has a great history!

Street in Tourrettes-sur-Loup in France

To reach the village of Tourrettes-sur-Loup, the best way is by car. This journey takes about 50 minutes.

11. Castagniers

There is a lot to do and see in the village Castagniers.

For example, there are many hiking trails. This allows you to walk through the nature that surrounds the village.

Another great sight in the village is Castagniers Abbey, which is great to see!

Also, there are lots of beautiful buildings in the village!

From Gare de Nice St Augustin in the city of Nice, you can travel to the village of Castagniers by public transport. This journey takes about 1 hour.

First, you need to take tram L2 to CADAM Centre Administratif. From there you can take bus 59 to the village of Castagniers.

It is also possible to go there by car. This journey takes about 30 minutes.

12. Courmes

Courmes is another one of the best villages near Nice and a great village on the French Riviera.

One of the best things to do in Courmes is visiting the Waterfall of Courmes . This is a very impressive waterfall to see that has a height of more than 40 meters.

Another great thing in the village is seeing the houses that are from Medieval times. The architecture in the village is great to see!

Also, if you love hiking then this village is great for you. There are lots of hiking trails that take you through the surroundings of the village.

The best way to reach the village of Courmes is by car. From Nice, the journey takes about 1 hour and the length of the journey is 25 miles (or 40 kilometers).

13. La Colle-sur-Loup

La Colle-sur-Loup is another village that I recommend visiting when you are in the city of Nice.

One of the best things to do in the village is to visit the castle. This is a beautiful castle that is from the Middle Ages. Much of the castle is still left, which is amazing!

Also, the streets of the village are great! What I like very much is that there are lots of trees that look great with the architecture of the houses.

For example, there are palm trees everywhere!

The easiest way to get to the village is by car. This journey takes about 30 minutes.

14. Beaulieu-sur-Mer

Beaulieu-sur-Mer is a very small village that is definitely worth visiting!

The gardens in the village are great. Nature there is beautiful to see and it makes the gardens a very relaxing place.

A view of the sea from Beaulieu-sur-Mer

Besides that, the port of Beaulieu-sur-Mer looks very charming. It features a beautiful color of blue and lots of small boats.

Also, the buildings in this village are great! The architecture looks very pretty and very stylish.

Beaulieu-sur-Mer is one of the villages that is closest to the city of Nice. Because of that, it is very easy to reach it. From the center of the city, you can take a direct train to Beaulieu-sur-Mer. This journey takes a bit more than 10 minutes.

Also, you can drive there by car, which takes a bit more time. This journey takes about 25 minutes, so I recommend going by train instead!

15. Villeneuve-Loubet

Villeneuve-Loubet is one of the best villages near Nice on the French Riviera.

The old village is great to see. It is a very picturesque place with lots of beautiful small houses.

Furthermore, there are lots of flowers in the village, which is beautiful.

Another great thing to see is the Saint-Christophe church. This is a beautiful church with a belltower!

You can reach Villeneuve-Loubet by first taking a train to Saint-Laurent-du-var. From there, you have to take bus 9 towards Routière de l'Ara and get off at La Grange Rimade. This stop is near the village of Villeneuve-Loubet.

16. Colomars

Colomars is also one of the best villages on the French Riviera.

It is a small village with lots of beautiful nature that surrounds it. There is a variety of trees here, including olive trees.

Nature makes the village a very relaxing place to go. It is great for hiking or for wandering around!

Another great thing to do in Colomars is visiting the fortress. This is a fortress from the end of the 19th century that is very interesting.

The village of Colomars is very close to the city of Nice. From there you can reach the village within about 15 minutes by car.

Besides that, you can also get to the village by public transport. But this takes a lot longer, so I wouldn't recommend that!

17. Roquefort-les-Pins

Roquefort-les-Pins is another great village near the city of Nice. You find here lots of great houses that are wonderful to see. Moreover, there are lots of villas in the village of Roquefort-les-Pins.

Also, it is a very relaxing place to be because of the nature of the village. This makes wandering around here great.

The easiest way to reach the village of Roquefort-les-Pins is by car. This journey takes about 40 minutes, but depending on traffic, it can be 10 minutes less or more. Moreover, the length of the journey is 15 miles (or 25 kilometers).

18. Le Broc

Another one of the best villages near Nice is Le Broc.

Railing and nature at Le Broc in France

What's great about Le Broc is that there are lots of charming little streets in the village.

Also, there are lots of old houses made of stone that look wonderful.

Strolling through the streets of the village of Le Broc is a great experience. And that's especially true in spring and summer, as then there are many flowers in the village!

Reaching the village of Le Broc by public transport isn't very convenient. That's because the fastest journey takes more than 2 hours.

Instead, I recommend visiting the village by car. The journey by car takes about 50 minutes and the length of the journey is 17 miles (or 27 kilometers).

19. Saint-Jeannet

Saint-Jeannet is another one of the best villages on the French Riviera. It is on top of a hill, which means that you have a wonderful view from up there.

Cliffs at Saint-Jeannet in France

You can see here lots of medieval houses, which is incredible. This makes it great if you like history. Moreover, there are lots of small alleys that are great to walk through.

By car, the journey takes about 40 minutes.

Besides that, you can go to the village by public transport and this journey takes about 1 hour.

20. La Gaude

Another one of the best villages on the French Riviera is La Gaude.

There are many lovely streets in this village that are great for wandering around.

Furthermore, there are beautiful churches in the village of La Gaude. These are wonderful to see!

Getting to the village of La Gaude is easy by public transport. You first need to take a train to Saint-Laurent-du-Var. From there, there is a direct bus connection to La Gaude. For this, you need to take bus 73 to Médiathèque and get off at Maoupas.

Carros is also one of the best villages near Nice. You can find the village on top of a hill.

Because of that, you have a wonderful view of the surrounding area. This includes the mountains near the village and the sea.

Also, it is great to wander around the medieval center of the village. Moreover, there are lots of wonderful medieval buildings in the small streets!

The fastest way to get to the village of Carros is by car. Moreover, this journey takes about 40 minutes.

Besides that, you can travel by public transport. For this, you can take tram L2 to CADAM Centre Administratif. Then you can take bus 22 to the village of Carros.

22. Le Bar sur Loup

You should also definitely visit Le Bar sur Loup when you are in Nice.

One of the best things to see in this village is the old castle.

Another interesting sight is the church of Saint-Jacques-le-Majeur that looks amazing!

The most convenient way to go to Le Bar sur Loup is by car. The journey by car takes about 1 hour.

23. Gréolières

Gréolières is another one of the best villages on the French Riviera.

Mountains surround this village, which looks amazing. Especially during winter, this looks beautiful because of the snow on the mountains. But it's also beautiful during the other seasons.

Also, the buildings of the village look very pretty!

Building at Gréolières in France

You can reach the village of Gréolières by car in a bit more than 1 hour.

24. Mougins

The village of Mougins is also a great village to visit near the city of Nice.

It is a very pretty village, which is one of the reasons Picasso and other artists stayed here. That's also why Mougins belongs to the best villages near Nice!

Furthermore, you can find here a lot of medieval architecture.

The fastest way to reach the village of Mougins is by car. This journey takes about 40 minutes.

Biot is also a great village close to the city of Nice.

This is a beautiful medieval village on top of a hill. Because of that, you have a wonderful view from here.

Furthermore, Biot is famous for its art museum dedicated to cubism with art by Fernand Leger. This is one of the reasons why people visit Biot.

The best way to get to the village of Biot is by car. This journey takes about 40 minutes.

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Tom Clegg

  • , May 19, 2023

6 Amazing Countries Near France You Will Enjoy Visiting

cities to visit near france

France is a beloved destination renowned for its museums , art, culture, and cuisine and the perfect springboard for those wishing to take in the fabulous European countries near France. From the stunning landscapes of Switzerland to the rich historical heritage of Germany and the artistic marvels of Italy, these countries near metropolitan France offer a tapestry of experiences just waiting to be discovered.

In this post, we’ll embark on a virtual journey through some of the magical countries in Western Europe, delving into their unique attractions, major cities, cultural treasures, and hidden gems that make them a must-visit for any traveler. But before anything else, let’s go over some French words related to this traveling to expand your vocabulary.

Countries Near France

Spain – a fusion of flamenco and cultural heritage.

Nestled just south of France, along the scenic North Atlantic Ocean, you’ll find the vibrant country of Spain, brimming with energy and teeming with cultural wonders. Known for its lively spirit, enchanting flamenco music and dance, and captivating regional traditions, Spain is an absolute feast for the senses.

From the architectural wonders of Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia and Park Güell to the vibrant streets of Madrid and the enchanting Alhambra in Granada, Spain offers a treasure trove of unique attractions. But wait! Let’s also not forget the sun-soaked beaches along the Costa del Sol on the Mediterranean Sea, the culinary delights of tapas and paella, and mesmerizing festivals like La Tomatina (an hour-long tomato fight) and Running of the Bulls (an insane celebration where people on too much Sangria run through the streets of Pamplona with a bunch of angry bulls hurtling after them) that add to the country’s allure.

Whether you explore the cultural riches and gently rolling hills of Andalusia or indulge in the artistic ambiance of Barcelona, Spain promises an unforgettable experience.

Italy – A Land of Romance, History, And Gastronomy

Southeast of France, bordering Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, you’ll find Italy—a country immersed in history and renowned for its art, architecture, and delectable cuisine. Italy is a living testament to its illustrious past, with iconic landmarks and mouthwatering dishes that will leave you enchanted. From the grandeur of Rome’s Colosseum (where gladiators once fought wild animals) and the Vatican City (home to the Pope and the Sistine Chapel) to the captivating canals of Venice and the architectural splendor of Florence, Italy showcases its rich heritage at every turn.

Additionally, Italy’s landscapes are nothing short of breathtaking. From the mesmerizing Amalfi Coast, adorned with its coastal beauty, to the picturesque Tuscan countryside, reminiscent of the Rhone River Valley, serenity and natural splendor abound. Indulge in Italy’s gastronomic delights, including the world-famous Neapolitan pizza, irresistible gelato, and mouthwatering pasta, all of which have captured the hearts of food enthusiasts worldwide.

Switzerland – Alpine Beauty And Timeless Elegance

East of France lies Switzerland, a picturesque land of alpine beauty, charming villages, and precision engineering. Renowned for its stunning landscapes, Switzerland offers endless adventure opportunities like hiking, skiing, and mountaineering. Some of the top cities, including Zurich, Geneva, and Lucerne, seamlessly blend history with sophistication. From world-class ski resorts to pristine lakes and delightful towns like Zermatt and Interlaken, Switzerland has it all. Indulge in the country’s famed chocolate, cheese, and watches, synonymous with quality. Whether marveling at the Matterhorn, exploring Bern’s streets, or cruising Lake Geneva, Switzerland’s elegance and natural allure leave an indelible impression.

Germany – Where History Meets Modernity

Northeast of the Grand Est region of France lies Germany, a country steeped in history, renowned for its stunning architecture and vibrant cities. Berlin, the capital, epitomizes Germany’s captivating blend of a tumultuous past and a dynamic present. Its diverse neighborhoods and iconic landmarks like the Brandenburg Gate and the remnants of the Berlin Wall showcase the city’s rich heritage.

The charming cities of Munich, Cologne, and Hamburg offer a mix of cultural treasures, medieval architecture, and modern flair. Germany’s fairy-tale castles, such as Neuschwanstein Castle, transport visitors to another world, while the scenic beauty of the Black Forest and the Rhine Valley beckon nature lovers.

french villages

Belgium – Not As Boring As You May Have Heard

Belgium, located over the border with Hauts-de-France, is known for its delicious chocolate, tasty beer, and charming medieval towns. Some of the most famous landmarks in Belgium include the Atomium, the Manneken Pis, and the Grand Place.

One of the most popular tourist destinations in Belgium is Brussels , the country’s capital and largest city, Brussels is known for its stunning architecture, including the Grand Place, the Atomium, and the Royal Palace of Brussels. Visitors to Brussels can also enjoy the city’s vibrant cultural scene, including its museums, galleries, and theatres.

Another popular destination in Belgium is Bruges, a charming medieval town known for its picturesque canals, cobblestone streets, and stunning architecture. Visitors to Bruges can explore the city’s historic center, visit the famous Markt Square, and enjoy a boat ride along the canals.

French building

Luxembourg – A Tiny Country With A Huge Heart

Luxembourg is a small European nation surrounded by Germany, Northern France, and Belgium. The diminutive country is known for its beautiful countryside, charming castles, and ancient history. Despite being a small country, Luxembourg offers a lot to visitors in terms of natural beauty and cultural heritage.

One of the most popular tourist destinations in Luxembourg is Luxembourg City, the country’s capital. Luxembourg City is well worth a visit for its stunning architecture, including the Bock Casemates, the Grand Ducal Palace, and the Notre Dame Cathedral. Visitors to Luxembourg City can also explore the city’s historic Old Town, which in recent decades has been awarded the prestigious status as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Another popular destination in Luxembourg is Vianden, a charming town located in the northwest of the country. Vianden is known for its stunning Vianden Castle, which is one of the largest fortified castles in Europe. Visitors to Vianden can also explore the town’s historic center, visit the Victor Hugo House, and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Our Valley.

Names Of Countries Near France In French

The countries neighboring France offer a wealth of experiences and attractions, each with its distinct cultural tapestry, historical heritage, and natural wonders. Whether you seek sun-soaked beaches, architectural marvels, culinary delights, or outdoor adventures, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, and Germany present an array of options.

Learn French With Ling!

Learning French is an excellent way to begin exploring France and its language. With the Ling app, you can access more in-depth lessons to help you level up your skills in French and 60+ other languages. Since you can install it on your favorite device, you can use Ling whenever or wherever! The best part? Ling added gamified features to ensure that you’ll stay motivated and executed to learn. Ready to give it a try? Download Ling today from App Store and Google Play .

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Around Lyon: 30 Beautiful Places to Discover

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Last Updated:  1 August 2023

Is there any need to introduce Lyon , the capital of the Gauls and the capital of French gastronomy? The city offers visitors an incredible architectural and cultural heritage. But beyond the ancient Lugudunum, there are many sites to explore. Of course, the Monts d’Or and the Beaujolais vineyards are also natural sites, beautiful ruins, and charming localities. What are the 30 places to see in the region around Lyon ? Follow the guide, and let’s go on a trip less than 40 km from Lyon city centre!

Around Lyon

What does Lyon mean to you?

The historic Hill of Fourvière ?

Lyon’s gastronomy and its bouchons ?

The Renaissance houses of Old Lyon and their traboules ?

The opera and its unusual roof?

The banks of the Saône and the Rhône?

Lyon is all this… and much more!

But for now, let’s leave the city walls to explore its surroundings…

Staying around Lyon

To plan your accommodation around Lyon, click on this link to booking.com or browse the map below:

What to see around Lyon?

Lyon is located in the heart of a tourist region. If you venture 30, 40 or 50 km from the city centre, you can discover hundreds of points of interest. Of course, it is not possible to list them all. I have selected 30 sites grouped into ten destinations within a 40 km radius of Lyon.

► Do you have any suggestions for visits to and around Lyon? Write them in the comments at the bottom of the article!

Here are the ten main destinations we will discover around Lyon:

Ambérieux-en-Dombes

  • Villefranche-sur-Saône

Oingt and Theizé

Monts d’or, rochetaillée-sur-saône, signal de saint-andré, vienne and saint-romain-en-gal.

Check the exact location of the 30 places on our Google Map.

To help you, I have included links to the corresponding tourist offices for most of the destinations around Lyon. Don’t hesitate to go there to get personal information on natural or cultural sites to discover, hikes to find or the programme of upcoming events.

Let’s start this little trip around Lyon with a historic town in the Isère département on the road to the Alps.

Town 40 km east of Lyon

Crémieu is a small town of 3,375 inhabitants, part of the Dauphiné province. Today, Crémieu is part of the department of Isère, not far from the Jura.

The charming old town has picturesque squares, narrow streets with colourful facades, 16th and 17th-century houses and the remains of its medieval ramparts.

The Saint-Jean-Baptiste church in Crémieu is a hall church dating back to the beginning of the 14th century. It houses a unique collection of Augustinian paintings created at the end of the Middle Ages.

The fortified hills of Crémieu

Two hills dominate the old town:

  • Saint-Laurent Hill, on the east side
  • Saint-Hippolyte Hill, on the west side

The ruins of the Château Delphinal (or Château Saint-Laurent) occupy the top of the Saint-Laurent hill to the east of the town. It was strategically important because the border between the Dauphiné and Savoie lay there—the remains of the fortress date from the 13th and 15th centuries.

To the west of the town and opposite the Delphine castle, Saint-Hippolyte Hill is home to the ruins of a Benedictine monastery, surrounded by its fortifications.

What to see around Crémieu

The town is bordered by a natural region of hills and plateaus: L’Isle Crémieu . This area is the link between the Lyon Plain and the Bugey Jura. If you have half a day to spare, here are some sites to explore:

  • The castle of Saint-Julien dominates the peaceful waters of the pond of Ry on the road to Siccieu-Saint-Julien-Carisieu.
  • The archaeological site of Larina is built on a rocky limestone spur overlooking the Rhône by more than 200 metres.
  • The Verbois gorges at Hières-sur-Amby and its beautiful waterfall.

Find out more about Crémieu on the blog

For more information, visit the Crémieu tourist office website.

Village 40 km north-east of Lyon

The medieval town of Pérouges is one of the most visited tourist sites in the Ain département. This ancient weaver’s village is located on a hill and is part of the association Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (France’s most beautiful villages).

The historic centre of Pérouges includes no less than 80 buildings listed as historic monuments. To be discovered in Pérouges :

  • the town gates (Porte d’En-Bas, Porte d’En-Haut)
  • the rue des Rondes (its picturesque appearance is due to its canopy roofs and the stone hooks that mark the weavers’ houses)
  • the Rue des Princes, the former main street
  • the Place du Tilleul and its 200-year-old lime tree planted shortly after the French Revolution several timber-framed and corbelled houses line the Place du Tilleul, including the Hostellerie du Vieux Pérouges, which dates from the 13th century
  • the 15th-century fortified church of Sainte-Marie-Madeleine

As you stroll through the streets of old Pérouges, you may recognise some film locations: Les Trois Mousquetaires (1961) and Angélique, Marquise des Anges (1964).

For more information, visit the Pérouges tourist office website.

   

36 km north of Lyon

Ambérieux-en-Dombes is located in the centre of a triangle formed by Bourg-en-Bresse, Mâcon and Lyon. The town of 1750 inhabitants is also located in the western part of the Dombes , a marshy region with various shapes and sizes of ponds.

Visitors to Ambérieux-en-Dombes see the old castle from the 12th and 14th centuries. It still has its four towers, including the keep.

In the village, notice the war memorial : it has the particularity of being surmounted by a rooster, a detail uncommon in France.

Excursion to the Dombes

If you have half a day to spare, take the opportunity to explore the Dombes. The natural region has more than 1,000 ponds dug in the Middle Ages by monks. 

As you drive along the small roads of the Dombes, you will discover villages full of flowers, castles made of carrons (red bricks), farms made of pisé (compacted raw earth) and, of course, an array of ponds! Near Ambérieux-en-Dombes, don’t miss:

  • the Bouligneux castle (a former fortified house from the early 14th century)
  • the charming church of the Nativité-de-la-Sainte-Vierge in Villars-les-Dombes , in Romanesque style and dating from the 12th/13th centuries,
  • the bird park in Villars-les-Dombes (one of the oldest bird parks in France. It contains a collection of more than 3,000 birds from all over the world in a 380-hectare reserve, 35 of which are accessible to the public)
  • the surprising Ars Basilica in Ars-sur-Formans

For more information, visit the Dombes tourist office website.

Villefranche-sur-Sâone

35 km north of Lyon

Between Mâcon and Lyon, Villefranche-sur-Saône is a gateway to the Beaujolais (to the west) and the Dombes (to the east).

The Rue Nationale crosses the town centre for about 1500 metres. This artery brings together most of the shops, as well as the significant sites of interest in Villefranche:

  • the collegiate church Notre-Dame des Marais (16th-century façade and 13th-century Romanesque bell tower)
  • the Renaissance houses in the old centre, especially along the Rue Nationale.

Around Villefranche: the Fléchères castle

6 km from the town, in the commune of Fareins, stands the magnificent château de Fléchères . 

It is the largest castle open to the public in the region around Lyon. 

The building is unusual in France, built around a Protestant temple!

The castle was built between 1606 and 1625 on the site of a fortified house. It offers an exceptional testimony to the life of the great notables of Lyon in the 17th century.

The interior features beautiful frescoes that decorate the walls of 10 castle rooms.

The park surrounding Fléchères extends over 30 hectares and comprises beautiful terraces, long shaded paths offering perspectives, an Italian-style pool and topiaries.

More information on the Beaujolais tourist office website

Visit the website of the Château de Fléchères

Around Villefranche: Trévoux

Less than 10 km south of Villefranche, it would be a shame not to stop at Trévoux .

In the Middle Ages, the Saône River acted as a border between the Kingdom of France and the Holy Roman Empire, of which Trévoux was a part.

The town grew wealthy thanks to the river toll established in Trévoux in the 13th century. Its strategic importance was reflected in the construction of a fortified castle and a rampart.

The old town centre has several historic buildings, including 17th and 18th-century townhouses. From the castle of Trévoux, there is a beautiful panorama of the Saône valley, the Dombes, the Beaujolais and the Monts d’Or.

Villages 35 km north of Lyon

To the west of Villefranche-sur-Saône lies the Beaujolais vineyards . The Pays des Pierre Dorées has charming little villages to the southwest. The countryside is often compared to Tuscany or Provence. The Monk and Nun roofing and the warm facades of the villages confirm this image. And yet, we are north of Lyon!

I suggest you visit Oingt and Theizé.

Built at the top of a limestone ridge at over 500 metres, Oingt dominates the Azergues Valley.

The commune belongs to the association of the most beautiful villages in France and attracts many tourists.

The historic village contains small heritage features: wine presses, wells and cadoles (dry stone huts).

The view extends to the Beaujolais vineyards, the Azergue Valley, and the Monts du Lyonnais.

The old village of Theizé occupies a hillside overlooking the Merloux Valley at an altitude of 450 metres.

Its old church dates from the 12th and 13th centuries and was enlarged in the flamboyant Gothic style in the 16th century.

The Rochebonne castle is located at the top of the village. Demolished during the Hundred Years’ War, it was rebuilt in the 17th century by a member of the family of Madame de Sévigné.

At the entrance to the village, the château de Rapetour is a 13th-century fortified house open to the public.

As in Oingt, the small heritage offers visitors many surprises throughout the commune: washhouses, wells, crosses and dry stone huts typical of the Beaujolais.

Le Pays des pierres dorées

The villages of Oingt and Theizé are part of the Pays des pierres dorées (Land of Golden Stones). This is a territory that brings together some forty communes.

Golden stones are limestone quarried in several villages northwest of Lyon. The stone is coloured with iron oxides, giving it its beautiful honey-yellow colour. The inhabitants used them as construction materials for their buildings (houses, castles, churches, etc.).

For more information, visit the Beaujolais Tourist Office website.

27 km north of Lyon

Charnay is a good base for exploring the Pays des pierres dorées.

The perched village occupies a narrow ridge and dominates the surrounding area by over 200 metres. As a result, it offers a clear view of the Beaujolais region.

The village of Charnay is centred on the Place du château (castle square), surrounded by golden stone houses from the 15th and 16th centuries, the church of Saint-Christophe and the castle La Mansarde (late 13th-early 14th century), now the town hall.

Châtillon d’Azergues

A few kilometres south of Charnay, Châtillon d’Azergues is worth a visit. The village of Châtillon is dominated by the imposing ruins of its 12th-13th century castle.

If you leave the village on the D76 in the direction of Alix, notice on the right the picturesque roof-topped well-known as “Sarracen”.

Chazay-d’Azergues

The old fortified town of Chazay-d’Azergues has preserved its belfry and some 15th and 16th-century houses.

Saint-Jean-des-Vignes

This is a charming site with its small church offering a superb view of the Lyon region.

The Espace Pierre Folles

On the territory of the commune of Saint-Jean-des-Vignes is the Espace Pierres Folles . The museum dedicated to the geology and heritage of the Beaujolais region offers a historical retrospective through the geology, fossils, soil and natural resources of the region. Please note: the site is closed for extension and renovation work and should reopen in 2023.

Natural site 30 km north of Lyon

For the people of Lyon, the Monts d’Or are synonymous with Sunday walks in the affluent suburbs of the Lyon conurbation. Indeed, the municipalities established on the slopes of this small massif to the northwest of Lyon are among the hundred wealthiest communes in France (in particular Saint-Didier-au-Mont-d’Or and Saint-Cyr-au-Mont-d’Or).

The Monts d’Or extend from north to south for about ten kilometres. They are bordered to the east by the Saône and the A6, the famous Autoroute du Soleil to the west.

The massif culminates at Mont Verdun (626 metres). The second highest peak is Mont Thou (611 m). These are occupied by military installations whose origins date back to the post-war years of 1871.

The Monts d’Or offer the people of Lyon great hiking opportunities, allowing them to appreciate better the massif’s natural environment and the small heritage (the cabornes or dry stone shelters).

There are plenty of opportunities to see the surrounding countryside. Going to the Croix Rampau is essential to enjoy the most beautiful panorama. An orientation table lets you identify the surrounding sites, from the Puy de Dôme to Mont Blanc !

Further south, the panorama from Mont Thou extends from the Saône Valley to Fourvière . On a clear day, the Jura and the Alps are visible.

13 km north of Lyon

Rochetaillée-sur-Saône , a town perched above the Saône, was once a popular bathing place for the people of Lyon. Today, it is its glazed-tile castle that attracts visitors.

Indeed, the restored former fortified castle is home to the Henri-Malartre automobile museum . Splendid collections can be discovered in the terraced park above the Sâone: automobiles (1890-1986), cycles (1818-1960), motorbikes (1904-1964), and public transport vehicles (1886-1935). Thus, of the 150 models of cars on display, 50 are pre-1914.

Find out more about the Henri-Malartre Automobile Museum.

Paul Bocuse’s restaurant

On the other bank of the Saône, the commune of Collonges-au-Mont-d’Or is home to the famous Auberge du Pont de Collonges , a restaurant founded by Paul Bocuse. The façade of this temple of French cuisine is decorated with paintings and sculptures by Paul Bocuse.

Neuville-sur-Sâone

North of Rochetaillée, make a diversion to Neuville-sur-Sâone to discover the Château de Vimy, or the Château des Abbés de l’Île-Barbe.

Then don’t forget Ombreval Castle , built in 1458 by Monsieur d’Ombreval. The castle’s park has become a public park whose moat still surrounds the building. The castle chapel is in a good state of preservation on the outside, as is the nymphaeum, a pavilion in the form of a grotto (circa 1636).

Locality 40 km west of Lyon

Located in the commune of Saint-André-la-Côte, 20 km from Lyon as the crow flies, the Signal de Saint-André is a summit belonging to the main ridge of the Monts du Lyonnais .

Culminating at 934 m, it is the second-highest summit in the massif, behind the Crêt Malherbe.

It is an important geographical location because it was here that the geographer César-François Cassini (1714-1784) had a marker erected on the summit in 1744 for the production of his famous map of the kingdom of France. It is still there today and indicates why the top was named “signal”.

The panoramic view on a clear day is magnificent. You can see the Monts du Lyonnais, the Lyon conurbation, the Jura and the Alps on the horizon.

In the surroundings, don’t miss the beautiful landscapes of the Monts du Lyonnais, particularly the Ronzey Lake and the countryside of Yzeron . In this village, an orientation table on the church square offers a beautiful view of the Lyon conurbation.

On the D2 road up to Riverie, notice the church in the centre of the village of Saint-Didier-sous-Riverie . It is an imposing sanctuary rebuilt in 1868 with granite bluestone. The church dedicated to Saint Didier de Vienne has the particularity of having two square bell towers, which is rare in the region, especially in a village the size of Saint-Didier-sous-Riverie!

The Route des Crêtes

To get a good overview of the Monts du Lyonnais, follow the route des crêtes from Saint-Didier-sous-Riverie to Vaugneray via :

  • Riverie to Saint-Martin-en-Haut (D113)
  • Saint-Martin-en-Haut to Yzeron (D122)
  • Yzeron to Col de la Luère (D113)
  • Then by the D24, downhill to Vaugneray .

34 km south of Lyon

You have to know which Vienne you are talking about!

A little geography revision: don’t confuse Vienne (the French name for Vienna, the capital of Austria), the Vienne river (which gave its name to a French département) and Vienne , a historic city and sub-prefecture of Isère.

Of course, we will mention the latter, located about thirty kilometres south of Lyon.

At the crossroads of roads leading to Lyon , the Alps , the Massif Central and Provence via the Rhône, Vienne’s strategic position is no stranger to the city’s rich built heritage.

Vienne is home to several significant monuments dating from antiquity: the Temple of Augustus and Livia , the ancient theatre from the 1st century AD, and the Roman remains of the Garden of Cybele .

From the medieval period, we can mention the Saint-Maurice cathedral (12th-13th centuries), the Saint-Pierre de Vienne abbey (now an archaeological museum), the Bâtie castle (13th century), the Saint-André-le-Bas de Vienne abbey and its cloister…

The rue Marchande is lined with arcades and old courtyards in the historical centre, reminiscent of the famous traboules in the Old Lyon district .

The city also has several museums : the Fine Arts and Archaeology Museum, Saint-André-le-Bas Cloister Museum, Saint-Pierre Archaeological Museum, and Drapery.

Panoramic views of Vienne

To enjoy a beautiful panorama of the city, go up to Mont Pipet . Near the chapel, the view over the city’s roofs and the cathedral is superb.

On a hillock overlooking the city stands the castle of La Bâtie . The former residence of the archbishops of Vienne in the Middle Ages is now in ruins.

Saint-Romain-en-Gal

On the opposite bank of the Rhône, Saint-Romain-en-Gal reveals an important archaeological site for visitors. The numerous Gallo-Roman remains include thermal baths, a Roman granite road, habitats and mosaics…

More information on the Vienne-Condrieu tourist office website

Practical information

Some practical advice to discover the sites around Lyon:

  • You can avoid the traffic jams to get out of/into Lyon by driving outside of rush hour, mainly if you use the eastern ring road (A46-N346).
  • These ten places inspire you to discover the region around Lyon (less than 40 km by road). Let yourself be surprised by other discoveries during your escapades, and stay curious! There is so much to discover, especially if you are a lover of small heritage.
  • Don’t hesitate to enter the tourist office centres. During my French travels, the receptionists I met know the area and will be happy to help you discover their beautiful region.
  • Click here to get ideas about accommodation  in the area around Lyon.
  • Visiting the region around Lyon? Think of the following hashtags: #onlylyon – #myauvergnerhonealpes – #enfranceaussi – #frenchmoments

Other blog posts that might interest you

  • Read this article in French on our blog Mon Grand-Est
  • Practical information for planning your visit to Lyon
  • A Culinary Journey into Lyon Gastronomy!
  • Discover the old town of Lyon: history and Sightseeing
  • The official Tourist Board of Lyon
  • Accommodation in Lyon
  • Find out more about Tourism in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes

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About the author

Pierre is a French/Australian who is passionate about France and its culture. He grew up in France and Germany and has also lived in Australia and England. He has a background teaching French, Economics and Current Affairs, and holds a Master of Translating and Interpreting English-French with the degree of Master of International Relations, and a degree of Economics and Management. Pierre is the author of Discovery Courses and books about France.

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Thank you Pierre, for a wonderful piece! I go to Lyon often but because I take the train, I don't visit the environs, so thanks for the nudge! One thing I would add to the Pierres Dorées village of Oingt which you may not know – in December (which is when I visited) they have an informal crèche competition – it's not really a competition but everyone decorates their windows with scenes from the Nativity. Completely brightens up the village and some are incredibly creative!

Thank you very much Leyla for the information on the Christmas Nativity scenes in Oingt! It is indeed worth a visit in December! 🙂

I will be traveling in France by train Can I visit small villages and towns close to Lyon? I am interested in Roman History.

Some of these sites are accessible by train, but hiring a car for most villages is best.

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20 OFFBEAT PLACES IN PARIS

cities to visit near france

15 Most Beautiful Cities in France for a Group Trip

F rance is a beautiful country and a top tourist destination. Its historical heritage is remarkable, its landscapes superb, and its cities amazing and romantic. Not to mention the famous French cuisine and the world-class wines. This country allows tourists to experience unforgettable emotions. Besides Paris, this guide will present some hidden treasures that are by far some of the most beautiful cities in France to add to your itinerary.

*Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something that we have recommended. Please check out our  disclosure policy  for more details. Thank you for your support!

What Are The Most Beautiful Cities in France to Visit?

Whether you are traveling with extended family, friends, or other couples, France is a destination that will please even the pickiest traveler. These are some of the most beautiful cities in France that should be on everyone’s radar. Each one offers something unique for travelers, so take a look and be sure to spend some time in one or more of these gorgeous cities and towns.

Many consider Paris as the most beautiful city in the world. Tourists have the opportunity to admire the historical and cultural past of France by visiting the Louvre and dozens of other museums.

The streets around the Sacre Coeur Basilica are full of painters that wait for you to draw your portrait. When the sun sets a nighttime cruise on the Seine River will give a different perspective of Paris.

Head to a bistro or a restaurant in the Latin Quarter at the end of the day. It is the best way to end one of the most memorable days of your life.

Orleans is the soul of France. It is located 80 miles southwest of Paris in the banks of the Loire River. The city endured more sieges than any other in the history of the country.

In addition to the amazing buildings, churches, and museums, Orleans is a city of festivals and bohemian entertainment. It is also a perfect starting point to explore the castles and the countryside of the Loire Valley. A visit to the house of the tragic hero Joan of Arc is a must.

Nestled along the banks of the Rance River in Brittany, Dinan exudes medieval charm. With its well-preserved ramparts, half-timbered houses, and cobblestone streets, this city offers a glimpse into France’s past.

Explore the majestic Dinan Castle, stroll through the enchanting Rue du Jerzual, and savor the breathtaking panoramic views from the Saint-Malo Tower.

Arles is a Roman city located in the south of France close to Marseilles. The beauty of Arles is depicted in the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh, who lived there, and in the movie Ronin with Robert de Niro.

The arena, the aqueducts, the baths, and the mill are some of the marvels of Roman engineering that a tourist can admire in Arles. It is no accident that the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Reims is located 80 miles east of Paris. The city holds a special place in France’s history, since its spectacular cathedral was the coronation place of the French Kings. The Palace of Tau and the St Remi Basilica, along with the numerous museums and forts worth a visit.

Reims has many beautiful squares decorated with Roman and medieval sculptures. And since it is the capital of the Champagne region, a tour to the wineries with their huge caves is a can’t miss experience.

Nevers is located in the heart of Burgundy about two hours south of Paris. It is a medieval town and the highlight is the Ducal Palace with its impressive turrets.

However, Nevers is most famous for its porcelain. The workshops there create fine pieces and a tourist must definitely see the famous faience china. And since Burgundy is the best wine making region on the planet, Nevers offers the opportunity to taste some amazing wines.

7. Biarritz

Biarritz is located in the southwest of France near the borders with Spain. Blessed with a magnificent Atlantic coastline, Biarritz is one of the most high end French resort towns since the times of Napoleon, who had a palace there (Hotel du Palais).

A tourist can visit the casino, play golf on one of the oldest courses in Europe, or enjoy the vibrant nightlife of the city. Biarritz is also one the most popular surf destinations on the world, so if this sounds like a fit for you, be sure to arrange a lesson .

8. Strasbourg

Located on the eastern border, Strasbourg seamlessly blends French and German cultures. Its picturesque city center, known as Grande Île, is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Be captivated by the striking Gothic architecture of the Notre-Dame Cathedral, take a boat tour along the charming canals of Petite France, and immerse yourself in the European Parliament district.

9. Carcassonne

Transport yourself to the Middle Ages in Carcassonne, a fortified city in southern France. The UNESCO-listed Cité de Carcassonne boasts impressive medieval walls and towers, creating an enchanting atmosphere.

Wander through narrow streets, visit the Basilica of Saint-Nazaire, and admire the breathtaking views from the Château Comtal.

10. Sarlat-la-Canéda

In the heart of the Dordogne region, Sarlat-la-Canéda entices visitors with its well-preserved Renaissance architecture. The charming streets are lined with honey-colored stone buildings, inviting exploration and discovery.

Don’t miss the bustling Saturday market, the stunning Cathédrale Saint-Sacerdos, and the historic Lanterne des Morts.

Renowned for its remarkable Roman ruins, Nîmes showcases France’s ancient past. The iconic Maison Carrée, an exceptionally preserved Roman temple, and the amphitheater known as Les Arènes are must-visit sites.

Stroll along the charming streets, admire the Fountain Gardens, and soak up the city’s vibrant atmosphere.

12. Bordeaux 

A city synonymous with world-class wine, Bordeaux is a blend of old-world charm and contemporary elegance. The historic center, with its grand 18th-century buildings, is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Explore the Place de la Bourse, wander through the lively Saint-Pierre district, and indulge in wine tastings at prestigious vineyards in the region .

13. Montpellier

As one of France’s youngest cities, Montpellier is a vibrant blend of history and modernity. The city boasts a wealth of elegant squares, such as Place de la Comédie, adorned with beautiful buildings and bustling cafes.

Explore the historic center, marvel at the Saint-Pierre Cathedral, and soak up the youthful energy of this lively city.

Situated in Normandy, Rouen offers a captivating mix of medieval and Gothic architecture. The stunning Rouen Cathedral, immortalized by Monet’s paintings, is a true masterpiece.

Wander through the charming streets of the Old Town, visit the Gros-Horloge astronomical clock, and appreciate the city’s rich historical heritage.

15. Antibes

Nestled on the French Riviera, Antibes exudes Mediterranean charm with its sandy beaches, vibrant markets, and rich maritime heritage.

Explore the medieval ramparts of the old town, visit the renowned Picasso Museum, and wander through the charming Marché Provençal. Don’t forget to take in the stunning views from Cap d’Antibes and indulge in the local cuisine.

Conclusion – Most Beautiful Cities in France

This list of the most beautiful cities in France is just a glimpse of what the country can offer tourists. There are limitless options. The world-class resorts of the Riviera, the romantic towns of Brittany, and the mountain cities of the Alps are also great places to go for a vacation.

The post 15 Most Beautiful Cities in France for a Group Trip appeared first on Groups Are A Trip .

France is a beautiful country and a top tourist destination. Its historical heritage is remarkable, its landscapes superb, and its cities amazing and romantic. Not to mention the famous French cuisine and the world-class wines. This country allows tourists to experience unforgettable emotions. Besides Paris, this guide will present some hidden treasures that are by ... Read more

These are the Most Beautiful Cities in France to Visit!

Article written by Elisa - Travel Writer & Local in France This article may contain compensated links. Please read disclaimer for more info.

Explore the Prettiest Cities in France

France is a stunning country to explore, and if you’re planning your first French trip , you may want to visit some of the most beautiful cities in France. It’s a tough decision, for good reason — all the most beautiful French cities have an enticing mix of scenery, historic sites, architecture, museums, and great cuisine and ambiance.

The good news is that the prettiest cities in France can easily be reached from Paris by train, with train journeys of four hours or less.  

The amount of time you have in France will likely dictate how many places you can visit. But where to go? These are our picks for the most beautiful cities in France to visit, the best cities in France with their unique character and appeal.

Plan Your Trip to France

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  • Quick Guide to Driving in France (and the best French road trips )
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cities to visit near france

Most Beautiful French Cities to Visit

One of the things we like most about France is its diversity. You can literally go from the north to the south of France and feel like you’re in a totally different country. The culture, food, and cities are all so different and unique!

Here’s the list of the best cities in France to visit this year in no particular order.

1. Paris, the Capital

Paris - France

Look no further: Paris is the most beautiful city in France and also the most romantic. For many, Paris is the first contact with the country, the final destination, or the starting point for fun road trips through France .

The French capital is a great place for sightseeing and cultural or gastronomic weekends — check out our Paris bucket list — and you can easily visit small towns or beautiful castles on day trips, too.

With a fascinating history, beautiful architecture, and a busy agenda of exhibitions, fairs, and festivals, it is impossible not to have a great time in Paris!

The list of top things to do in Paris includes the Eiffel Tower , the Louvre Museum , the Tuileries Garden, Montmartre, or Ile de la Cité , but believe us when we say that the city has much more to offer apart from the main tourist sights.

If you visit Paris for the first time, we recommend spending at least 3 days in Paris — one more day if you plan to visit Versailles.

  • Book your flight tickets to Paris with Omio ; Book your train tickets to Paris with Omio

Where to stay in Paris :

  • Le Robinet d’Or (budget)
  • Hotel La Lanterne (mid-range)
  • Le Meurice (luxury)
  • Best Districts to Say in Paris

Harbor Nice

Nice is another of the most beautiful cities France has to offer in the south. The capital of the French Riviera is a great destination all year round: a buzzing sea city in the summer and a relaxing sunny place for a winter break in France .

One of the loveliest cities in Europe , we recommend spending at least 2 days in Nice , visiting its beautiful Baroque architecture, colorful markets, pretty beaches, and interesting museums. The list of top things to do in Nice includes Old Nice , the iconic Promenade des Anglais with the Negresco Hotel , and the Musée Matisse .

Nice is also the perfect starting point for a fun French Riviera road trip . You can also visit many beautiful places on day trips from Nice .

  • Book your flight tickets to Nice with Omio ; Book your train tickets to Nice with Omio .

Where to stay in Nice:

  • Hotel Durante (budget)
  • Palais Saleya Boutique Hotel (mid-range)
  • Hotel Negresco (luxury)
  • Best hotels in Nice with a pool

3. Marseille

Marseille - France

Marseille is one of the main cities in Southern France and another of the most beautiful French cities to visit. Bathed by the Mediterranean Sea, Marseille is essentially a port city with a particular character and soul.

The capital of the region Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur is far from the clichés of Provence . However, it is a great destination for sightseeing, cultural or gastronomic weekends. It is also the perfect base to explore pretty Mediterranean towns nearby or enjoy sea-related activities like sailing or diving.

The list of the best things to do in Marseille includes the Old Port, the neighborhood of Le Panier, the Basilica of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde, the MuCEM, and the Palace of Pharo with its garden. We recommend spending 2 days in Marseille — one more day if you plan on visiting the Parc National des Calanques de Cassis-Marseille .

  • Book your train tickets to Marseille with Omio ; Book your train tickets to Marseille with Omio .

Where to stay in Marseille:

  • Massilia Hotel (budget)
  • Best Western Hotel du Mucem (mid-range)
  • La Résidence Du Vieux Port (luxury)
  • Best Hotels in Marseille

Lyon - France

In the Southeast, Lyon is another beautiful city in France well connected with Paris. Bisected by the rivers Rhône and Saône from north to south, Lyon is well known for its quality of life and beautiful heritage from Roman times to contemporary architecture.

Lyon is also the food capital of France. In 1935, French food critic Curnonsky, dubbed the Prince of Gastronomy, described the city of Lyon as the “world capital of gastronomy,” so if you ever find yourself in Lyon, you must learn about its local dishes and, of course, try them!

With 2 days in Lyon , you can visit most of the main sights in the city. The list of top things to do in Lyon includes the Fourvière Hill  for the Basilica and beautiful panoramic views of the city, Vieux Lyon — the city’s historical center and its beating heart —, the Lumière Museum , and the Presqu’Ile  (Lyon’s river-bound peninsula) for more beautiful architecture and good shopping. The Traboules are unique to Vieux Lyon, so while you are there, don’t forget to explore a couple of them!

Add a couple more days and explore the surroundings on day trips from Lyon .

  • Book your flight tickets to Lyon with Omio ; Book your train tickets to Lyon with Omio .

Where to stay in Lyon:

  • Hotel Le Lumière (budget)
  • Hotel des Artistes (mid-range)
  • Intercontinental Lyon – Hotel Dieu (luxury)
  • Best hotels in Lyon

5. Strasbourg

Strasbourg - France

In Eastern France, Strasbourg is the capital of historical Alsace , the capital of the new French region of Grand Est , and the seat of many European institutions like the European Parliament.

Strasbourg is one of the best French cities for sightseeing or a gastronomic weekend . We recommend spending 2 days in Strasbourg , more days if you plan to take day trips . The list of main sights in Strasbourg includes the Gothic Cathedral , the neighborhood of La Petite France with its picturesque houses and canals, the Maison Kammerzel , and the European Parliament . At lunch or dinner time, don’t miss the traditional winstubs for a more local atmosphere.

A modern city that does not forget its roots, Strasbourg is the main starting point for the Alsace Wine Route and a great base camp for exploring picturesque villages in Alsace . The city is also famous for its Christmas market , one of the most beautiful Christmas Markets in France !

  • Book your train tickets to Strasbourg with Omio .

Where to stay in Strasbourg :

  • Hotel Arok (budget)
  • Hotel Cathédrale (mid-range)
  • Hotel & Spa Regent Petite France (luxury)
  • Best neighborhoods to stay in Strasbourg

Nantes - Pays de La Loire

Nantes is one of the best cities in France to visit from Paris. Bisected by the Loire River, Nantes boasts a beautiful city center with elegant squares and private mansions.

Nantes is an excellent destination to visit with kids. We recommend spending 2 days in Nantes to get a good taste of what the city offers. The list of top things to do in Nantes includes the central neighborhoods , the banks of the River Loire , especially animated in the summer, and the medieval Château of the Dukes of Brittany .

Nantes is also the city of Jules Verne , who was born and raised there. The Jules Verne Museum is dedicated to the famous French writer, and some of his novels inspired  Les Machines de l’Ile , a quirky attraction set in the former shipyards on the Isle of Nantes. There are few places in Europe where you can stroll around the city on the back of a mechanical elephant!

  • Book your train tickets to Nantes with Omio

Where to stay in Nantes:

  • Kyriad Nantes Centre Graslin (budget)
  • Oceania l’Hotel de France Nantes (mid-range)
  • Radisson Blu Hotel Nantes (luxury)
  • Best hotels in Nantes

Colmar - Alsace

Colmar  is the type of city people dream about when planning a trip to France. Not only is it one of the prettiest cities in France, but it’s also been one of France’s cultural centers since the 13th century.

From spring to fall, Colmar is a must-stop for any Alsace road trip . From mid-November to the end of the year, the city hosts one of the best Christmas markets in Alsace in a fairytale atmosphere.

There are numerous  things to do in Colmar , but the historic center is the star. It’s filled with floral displays on every corner, half-timbered houses, and historic mansions begging to be explored. For a more cultural visit, don’t miss the Unterlinden Museum , which has a stunning collection of medieval art, and the Bartholdi Museum , dedicated to the sculptor of the Statue of Liberty. Kids (and adults) will love the Toy Museum and the Choco-Story Colmar .

  • Book your train tickets to Colmar with Omio .

Where to stay in Colmar:

  • Paul & Pia – Welcome Home Hotel (budget)
  • Hotel Turenne (mid-range)
  • Hotel Le Colombier (luxury)
  • Best neighborhoods to stay in Colmar

8. Bordeaux

Bordeaux - France

In Western France, Bordeaux is the capital of the region Nouvelle-Aquitaine and one of the most elegant French cities to visit. Most of all, Bordeaux is the capital of one of the best wine regions in France and worldwide!

Bordeaux’s historical center boasts a beautiful collection of Classical and Neo-classical private mansions. The architecture is elegant and homogeneous. Come to Bordeaux for sightseeing, to enjoy its excellent cuisine , and to taste some of the world’s best wines.  

The best things to do in this beautiful city in France include its excellent Cité du Vin , the Place de la Bourse, the water mirror, and a stroll around the Old Town . We recommend spending two days in Bordeaux , a perfect amount of time to visit the city and do a wine-tasting tour, plus one day to explore the surrounding areas of Arcachon or Saint Emilion .

  • Book your train tickets to Bordeaux with Omio .

Where to stay in Bordeaux:

  • Hotel des Voyageurs Centre Bastide (budget)
  • Golden Tulip Bordeaux Euratlantique (mid-range)
  • Yndo Hotel (luxury)
  • Best hotels in Bordeaux

cities to visit near france

Annecy is a small city in the French Alps , quite different from the other best cities to visit in France on this list. This picture-perfect city, crisscrossed by canals, is located by Lake Annecy, more precisely, where Lake Annecy feeds into the Thiou River. Here, we are not far from the Alps, the Montblanc, and the border with Switzerland.

Is Annecy the prettiest city in France? Annecy’s charming Old Town , with its cobbled streets, winding canals, and pastel-colored houses, is the perfect place for a stroll. Here, you cannot miss the medieval Château d’Annecy , overlooking the city, and the Palais de l’Ile — an 11th-century house-fortress with a particular vessel shape.

With the arrival of the beautiful days, the city moves to the lake, the perfect spot for a picnic, a hike, or a bike ride. There are many water activities, too, and the possibility of having a bath at the Plages des Marquisats or d’Albigny.

Annecy is a great city for a relaxing weekend getaway. With 2 days in Annecy , you can explore the Old Town and dedicate a whole day to one of the endless outdoor activities in or around the lake.

  • Book your train tickets to Annecy with Omio .

Where to stay in Annecy:

  • Hotel des Alpes (budget)
  • Best Western Plus Hotel Carlton Annecy (mid-range)
  • Impérial Palace (luxury)

Lille - Hauts-de-France

Lille is one of the most beautiful cities in Northern France . Located in the region of  Hauts-de-France , near the border with Belgium, Lille is a bustling city known for its Flemish architecture and deep cultural heritage.

What to do in Lille? The Grand Place is Lille’s beating heart, with the Old Stock Market , extravagant Flemish Baroque buildings, and the Belfry in the background. Vieux Lille and the Musée des Beaux-Arts are also a must, and the Parc de la Citadelle is the perfect place to relax. Try some of the typical food in Lille , and you’ve got the perfect weekend getaway from Paris.

  • Book your flight tickets to Lille with Omio ; Book your train tickets to Lille with Omio .

Where to stay in Lille:

  • Hotel de la Paix (budget)
  • Boa Hotel (mid-range)
  • Clarance Hotel Lille (luxury)
  • Best Hotels in Lille

Tours - France

Tours is one of the prettiest French cities in Central France. Tours is a historic city, the capital of the Kingdom of France, even if for a short time, and with a rich heritage. It is also a student city, with a lively city center populated by many restaurants and bars that pop up their terraces outside as soon as the beautiful days arrive. 

With such an interesting past and its perfect location in the heart of the Loire Valley , Tours is one of the best cities in France for exploring the Châteaux of the Loire Valley .

Two days in Tours is a good time to explore the city. Wander around the Old Town with its pretty architecture of half-timbered houses and visit  Saint-Gatien Cathedral . The Olivier Debré Contemporary Art Centre is worth the visit, too, and the bustling  Place Plumereau is perfect for a coffee break. On sunny days, be sure to check out the famous  Tours-sur-Loire Guinguette,  where the beach extends the city limits to the banks of the Loire River.

  • Book your train tickets to Tours with Omio .

Where to stay in Tours:

  • Hotel du Cygne Tours (budget)
  • Best Western Central Hotel (mid-range)
  • Château Belmont Tours (luxury)

12. Avignon

Avignon - France

Avignon is one of the most beautiful cities in Southern France . The former city of Popes and cardinals, once the center of intrigues and passions, is one of the most fascinating destinations in France, with an exciting past and a rich heritage. The city is also an excellent base from which to explore some of the most beautiful towns in Provence and the lavender fields of Provence (from mid-June to the end of August).

Avignon is a great destination for sightseeing. The best things to do in Avignon include the Old Town , the Palais des Papes , Notre Dame-des-Doms , and the Pont d’Avignon . In July, Avignon transforms into an open-air theater thanks to its reputed  Festival d’Avignon .

Avignon is small, and you could easily squeeze the main sights in one day in Avignon . But why rush? You are in Provence , where people like to take their time to enjoy the small pleasures of life. That’s why we still recommend taking it easy and spending 2 days in Avignon to enjoy the city at a more relaxed pace.

  • Book your train tickets to Avignon with Omio

Where to stay in Avignon:

  • HO36 Avignon (budget)
  • Hotel Central (mid-range)
  • Hotel d’Europe (luxury)

Dijon - France

If you are looking for the most beautiful cities in France to visit near Paris, then Dijon is a good option. The capital of the Dukes of Burgundy, Dijon, has an interesting history, beautiful medieval architecture, tasty local produce, and good wine. 

Dijon is a great destination for a cultural weekend or a gastronomic weekend. Dijon’s Old Town  is like a trip back in time, with its impressive Ducal Palace , medieval architecture, and religious buildings.

Dijon is also a good starting point for exploring the Route des Grands Crus or the most beautiful towns in Burgundy . Beaune , famous for its Hospices, is another popular day trip from Dijon.

  • Book your train tickets to Dijon with Omio .

Where to stay in Dijon:

  • Hotel des Halles (budget)
  • Hostellerie du Chapeau Rouge (mid-range)
  • Grand Hotel La Cloche Dijon (luxury)

And there you have it — the list of the most beautiful cities in France for every kind of traveler. Which cities would you like to explore right now?

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How to get around France

May 19, 2023 • 12 min read

Smiling man riding bike on the walkway near to Seine river.

From driving to public transit, here's how to get around when you visit France © Hernandez & Sorokina / Stocksy United

The vast majority of visitors to France choose to travel en voiture (by car). 

However, while driving is often the most convenient and comfortable way to get around – especially if you want to explore the French countryside – it’s not always the easiest or even cheapest option. The French rail network is superb, and traveling by train is often just as quick as driving, generally very reliable and quite reasonably priced. Better still, you don’t have to worry about parking, traffic, motorway tolls, or any unexpected breakdowns. 

Unfortunately, public transport in more rural areas can be patchy. Local buses fill in the gaps the rail network doesn’t reach, but French buses are rarely as reliable or frequent as trains. If you’re looking to explore beyond the larger towns, hiring a car (even if only for a few days) may be the most practical option. 

From bike to bus and train to plane, here's everything you need to know about getting around France.

A mother and son riding on a train in France

Take the train for an easy trip across France

Traveling around France by train is a joy. France’s state-owned SNCF is one of the best rail networks in Europe – fast, frequent and often very competitively priced, especially if you plan ahead and book in advance.

Practically the whole country is accessible by high-speed TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse) trains, which travel at speeds of up to 300km/h. High-speed lines, or LGVs (Lignes à Grande Vitesse), radiate outwards from Paris like the spokes of a wheel, heading north, east, southeast and southwest. Various spur lines are currently planned or under construction to extend coverage even further. 

Unfortunately, while intercity services are fantastic and fast, connections between smaller towns situated on different ‘spokes’ of the network tend to be slower and less frequent. Away from the main lines, trains have to use conventional tracks, which limits their speed.

Alongside the fast TGV network, local services are provided by TER (Transport Express Régional) or Corail trains, which are less flashy and much slower. It’s worth noting that long-distance trains sometimes divide somewhere along the route, with each half of the train heading off to a different destination; check the destination panel on your car as you board, or you could wind up far from where you intended to go.

Buying and collecting train tickets

The easiest way to book train tickets is to buy them online. You need to book well in advance for the best fares. Many train services offer e-tickets, which you can download onto your phone (make sure it’s charged before you travel). If you plan to collect them at the station, you will need to bring the credit card used to make the booking and the reference number for your booking.

Most mainline train stations have automated ticket machines on the concourse where you can purchase tickets and staffed ticket booths where you can buy in person – but note that on-the-day purchases are likely to be more expensive, especially for longer journeys. 

Tips for traveling by train in France:

  • For the best fares, you need to book as far ahead as possible; check SNCF Connect for fares, train times, and online booking. 
  • Standard class is very comfortable, but if you book well in advance, you can sometimes get some great deals on First Class too. 

If you’re not too fussed about getting from A to B as fast as possible, check out the cheap fares on Ouigo Train Classique , which offers travel between several major cities (for example, Paris to Lyon, Dijon, or Nantes) for a fraction of the regular price.

A young woman using headphones and smartphone on the stop floor of a bus in France

Explore rural areas of France by bus

Various bus and coach companies compete with the SNCF's rail services, offering cheaper but much slower services between large towns and cities. These include FlixBus and the cross-Europe coach network run by EuroLines .

Buses are widely used for short-distance travel around cities, and within départements (regions), especially in areas with relatively few train lines, such as Brittany and Normandy . These can be a really useful way of getting around in places where rail travel isn’t possible. In some areas, fares are subsidized, enabling you to travel right across the region for a low flat fare.

Unfortunately, bus services in many rural areas are infrequent and slow as their timetables tend to be geared around school times – there is sometimes just one bus in the morning and afternoon, and reduced services (or no services at all) during weekends and school holidays.

Cars on the Champs-Elysees in Paris at night

Traveling by car

Traveling by car in France gives you exceptional freedom to explore, particularly in rural areas. Mooching along peaceful country lanes, passing vineyards and orchards, is one of France's greatest joys. However, driving in France isn’t always a picnic. In the cities – especially Paris and its surrounds – heavy traffic and finding a place to park can be major headaches. Theft from cars can also be a problem in France, especially in the south. 

One option is to hire a car for a short period as you need it, rather than for weeks at a time. Many larger train stations have car-hire agencies, so it's possible to combine train and car travel by picking up a rental partway through your journey. Inevitably though, shorter hire periods tend to attract higher rates.

It’s worth brushing up on French road rules before you go as there are some peculiarities that take some getting used to – particularly the priorité à droite rule, which requires you to give way to approaching cars from the right. Speed cameras are increasingly common, as are radar traps and unmarked police vehicles.

Sociétés d'Autoroutes and Bison Futé are good sources of information on traffic conditions, rest stops and service stations. Plot your route and calculate toll costs with an online mapping site such as Via Michelin . There are four types of intercity roads:

  • Autoroutes (with names beginning with A) are multi-lane divided highways that charge tolls (péages) except near Calais and Lille . The further you travel, the more you pay. It’s possible to pay via credit card or cash at toll stations. If you’re doing loads of autoroute driving, you could also consider getting an automatic toll pass (such as the ones provided by Bip&Go or Eurotunnel & Emovis ) which will charge you automatically as you pass through. Tolls are cheaper for motorcyclists, and more costly for cars towing caravans. 
  • Routes Nationales (N or RN) are national highways with divider strips on some sections. They often run alongside or close to autoroutes and pass through main towns – they’re slower but toll-free.
  • Routes Départementales (D) are local highways and roads.
  • Routes Communales (C, V) are minor rural roads.

Paying autoroute tolls

When driving on French autoroutes, you are charged for the distance you travel. When you join the motorway, you will be given a paper ticket at the automated toll booth. When you exit, you need to insert the same ticket into another toll booth (or give it to the toll attendant), and the relevant fee will be displayed, which you can pay by cash or credit card.

Different autoroutes charge different amounts per kilometer (you can calculate fees at autoroutes.fr ). Note that you need to choose the right lane when you exit the motorway – some lanes are automated, others have attendants, and some are reserved for frequent users with automated Liber-T passes. Don’t enter one of the lanes marked by a big orange ‘T’ unless you have a pass; look out for green arrows, or a picture of cash or a credit card, and you should be okay.

Car parking in France

Parking in French towns and cities can be a real pain. Assuming you manage to find a space, you will nearly always have to pay for on-street parking – look out for white markings on the street that say payant. There is usually a parking meter nearby that accepts cash and sometimes credit cards. Chargeable hours are generally 9am to noon and 2pm to 5pm or 6pm, but this does vary (times will be indicated on the parking meter).

The alternative is to park in a public car park. While these are easy to find, they can be very pricey, especially in larger towns and cities. Usually, you collect a ticket on entry, pay the fee at an automated machine when you want to leave, and then insert the ticket at the exit barrier.

Don’t expect to be able to pay at the barrier when you leave, because you won’t be able to. It can be somewhat embarrassing to get stuck there with a long queue of drivers lined up behind you beeping their horns, who then have to back up to let you back out.

A group of people riding bikes through the golden vineyards of Alsace

Explore the countryside by bike

France is superb for cycling. The countryside is gorgeous, and the country has a growing number of urban and rural bike paths and bike lanes (known as pistes cyclables) and greenways (known as voices vertes) that make for lovely, traffic-free cycling. Vélos électriques (electric bicycles) are increasingly popular too, with lots of rental companies setting up shop. 

Certain regions – the Loire Valley , the Luberon in Provence , and Burgundy – are particularly well set up for exploring on two wheels, with dedicated cycling paths, some along canal towpaths or weaving between orchards and vineyards. Note, however, that France isn’t always flat – you may well have to tackle some hills en route, though hopefully nothing that’s likely to feature in the Tour de France.

Catch a ferry to the islands

There are regular ferry services to several French ports (including Calais , Cherbourg, Roscoff, Le Havre , Brest and others). Boats also connect the French mainland with offshore islands, the Channel Islands, and Corsica (which is served by frequent ferries from Nice, Toulon and Marseille ). 

Another option is to cruise along France's canals and rivers in a rented houseboat – the Canal du Midi and the Loire are both popular options. It’s a delightful, peaceful way to explore, allowing you the freedom to stop to pick up supplies, dine at a village restaurant or check out a local château by bicycle.

Changes in altitude are taken care of by a system of écluses (locks). Boats generally accommodate two to 12 passengers and are kitted out with bedding and cooking facilities. France Afloat is a reliable rental agency and canal boat specialist.

Only fly in France if you really need to

France's fast, comprehensive rail network means that train travel between Paris and most major French cities is nearly always faster and easier than flying – especially once you factor in extra time for traveling to the airport, getting through security and making connections. Even traveling from Paris to the south or southwest of France is nearly always more swift by train.

The exception is where you want to travel between cities located on different ‘spokes’ of the TGV network, for example Lyon to Nantes or Strasbourg to Nice , though some flights connect through Paris in any case. If you want to get to Corsica, flying is faster and more convenient than the ferry – unless you want to take your own car.

It’s worth noting that smaller airports (notably Paris Beauvais , which is used by many budget airlines) are often located some distance from the city center. While there is normally some form of bus or rail link to get you into town, it adds extra time and cost.  

Air France , including its subsidiary Air France Hop, operates the lion's share of France's domestic flights. Budget carriers offering flights within France include Air Corsica , EasyJet , Twin Jet and Volotea .

Paris Metro Sign with Christmas lights on surrounding buildings

Public transport in cities is inexpensive and frequent

France's urban transport systems use a combination of métros (underground/subway systems), trams and buses (Paris also has plans for a shiny new cable car ). Usually, systems are integrated, so you only have to buy one ticket to get wherever you want to go, with changes to other forms of transport covered by the same ticket. Always remember to composter (validate) the ticket before or immediately after boarding, especially if you intend to use it later on to transfer. 

A single ticket is known as a billet à l'unité. You can also purchase a carnet (booklet or bunch) of 10 tickets or a pass journée (all-day pass). Note that tram drivers (and some bus drivers) do not sell tickets, so you may need to buy one before you board from a machine at the stop. 

Paris' public-transport network is increasingly trying to transition over to a paperless system. The old paper carnets are being replaced by credit-card style Navigo Passes, and on some buses, you can buy your ticket by SMS.

Taxis are convenient but often expensive in France

All medium and large train stations – and many smaller ones – have a taxi rank out the front. If there are no cabs parked, you'll need to phone to order one; look for a posted phone number. Cabs can also be ordered online in many cities via G7 (or their app), and rideshares are easily summoned through Uber .

In small cities and towns, where taxi drivers are unlikely to find another fare where they let you off, one-way and return trips often cost the same. Tariffs are about 30% higher at night and on Sundays and holidays. You'll usually have to pay a surcharge if you're picked up at a train station or airport, and there's a small additional fee for a fourth passenger and sometimes for suitcases.

Accessible transportation in France

France presents constant challenges for visiteurs à mobilité réduite (visitors with reduced mobility) and visiteurs handicapés (visitors with disabilities), from cobblestones and sidewalks crowded with cafe tables to a lack of curb ramps – but the French government is making significant strides in improving the situation.

The Paris metro, parts of it built more than a century ago, is not good for wheelchair users. Line 14 was built to be wheelchair-accessible, although in reality, it remains challenging to navigate. Paris buses, however, are 100% accessible. Specialist operator G7 has vehicles specially adapted to carry wheelchairs and drivers trained in helping passengers with disabilities.

Countrywide, many SNCF train carriages are accessible to people with disabilities – although it’s always worth asking ahead to make sure the help you need will be available on the train you wish to travel on. If you use a wheelchair, you and a person accompanying you may qualify for discounts.

This article was first published June 2021 and updated May 2023

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American flags and a white picket fence line Main Street in Essex, Ct. Editorial credit: Jeff Holcombe / Shutterstock.com

  • 7 Best Places to Live in Connecticut in 2024

Connecticut , popularly called the “Nutmeg State” despite being the third-smallest state by area, is the fourth most densely populated in the United States . Looking at these statistics, you might be discouraged about moving here, but there is more to this state than meets the eye.

From extensive forest towns to quaint waterfront towns, Connecticut has it all. From small historic towns to busy big cities, there is a wide variety of towns to pick from when sorting for a place to relocate to in the state. Here are the seven best places to live in Connecticut in 2024.

The West Cornwall Covered Bridge (also known as Hart Bridge) is a wooden covered bridge built around 1864.

Named after Cornwall County in England , this small town is located at the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains. It is popularly named “Home of the Covered Bridge,” its beauty and charm make it one of the best places to live in the state in 2024. The home value in Cornwall ranges from $95K to $1.9M, with Bucks Hill being the most affordable neighborhood with an average price of $225K.

Cornwall is home to one of the only three surviving covered bridges in the state. This historic bridge is a popular tourist destination and residents' favorite. The Mohawk State Forest and Ski Area are still in this city as well. This area is the largest in Connecticut, with approximately 26 trails and 5 lifts. It has earned the town the title “the Greenest Town in Connecticut.”

The Mystic River Bascule Bridge in Mystic, Connecticut. Editorial credit: littlenySTOCK / Shutterstock.com

The town derived its name from the Pequot word “missi-tuk,” used to describe rivers whose waters are driven into the waves by tides or wind. With a population of less than 5,000 people, this town is the perfect place to raise a family or start life as a retiree. Mystic has a median home price of $799K.

Mystic lies on the side of the Mystic River, offering residents a beautiful waterfront view and a lot of fishing opportunities. The town is divided by the famous Mystic River Bascule Bridge. The bridge carries foot and vehicle traffic to the astonishing tourist district of the town.

It is also home to famous tourist destinations in Connecticut, such as the Mystic Seaport Museum and the Mystic Aquarium.

Vibrant winter landscape of Webb Mountain and water reflection on Lake Zoar in Monroe, Connecticut.

Monroe is a family-oriented town in Connecticut that is considered a bedroom community. Over centuries, this town has grown from a small village to a small town with award-winning schools, safe neighborhoods, beautiful parks, and growing local businesses and industry. The average home price in Monroe is $552K.

One of the famous parks in Monroe is a popular tourist attraction called Webb Mountain Park, approximately over a 100-acre park that offers residents miles of hiking trails, rock climbing, nature study, and campsites. Other sites to look out for include Warrens’ Occult Museum, Stepney Cemetery, and Monroe Center Historic District.

Bethel Opera House in Bethel, CT. Editorial credit: Rosemarie Mosteller / Shutterstock.com

Welcome to Bethel , a town whose name is of Hebrew origin, meaning “House of God.” It was formed in 1855 in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Lying approximately 60 miles from New York City, this town is the perfect choice for people seeking a calm and slow-paced beginning. Bethel homes are priced at an average of $487K year-over-year.

Bethel has a unique charm, fun-filled and active community calendar of events, and to crown it all, a walkable and thrilling downtown area. Residents can visit Noteworthy Chocolates, Trailer Box Projects Art Gallery, and Blue Jay Orchards (which is open from Late August to Early September) for relaxation and get-togethers during the week or weekends.

Bryan Memorial Town Hall in Washington, Connecticut. Editorial credit: Ritu Manoj Jethani / Shutterstock.com

A rural town in Connecticut that is a favorite of many people looking for an enchanting place to live and should be top of your bucket list is Washington. With a population of fewer than 5,000 people, the town is a tight-knit and friendly community. The town has a median home listing price of $1.9M.

Washington is home to Lake Waramaug and the Shepaug River, two major natural resources that provide endless recreational activities to residents. From rolling hills to picturesque farmland, it is a perfect example of a quaint small town.

If you're an art lover, this place is an art lover's paradise. The town is filled with local artists, musicians, and galleries. Look out for Eckert Fine Art, The Hen's Nest Gallery, and Gunn Memorial Library & Historical Museum. Lake Waramaug State Park is a great place to make some art (or take some photos) of your own!

Antique train at Essex Train Station in Essex, Connecticut.

Welcome to the picturesque town of Essex , which is made up of three villages: Essex Village, Centerbrook, and Ivoryton. This town gives residents unlimited access to the Connecticut River in all its beauty and splendor. Right on the Connecticut River is the Connecticut River Museum, which houses several river artifacts and is also the hosting ground for the Connecticut Winter Wildflie Eagle Cruises, which is open from February to March. Essex has a median home listing price of $875K.

When the streets are not busy with events, residents can explore the several historic sites littered around town. Catch a play at the Ivoryton Playhouse, the first believed continuously operating summer theater in the United States. Your children will enjoy attending the Thomas the Tank Engine, which is held a couple of times across the year.

Brilliant summer day on the shores of Pine Acres Pond in the Goodwin State Forest of Chaplin, Connecticut.

Named after Deacon Benjamin Chaplin, an early settler in the area, Chaplin depicts the 18th century in architecture and community planning. With a population of less than 3,000, this historic town is perfect for those looking for a quiet start. The average price of homes in Chaplin is $360K.

The Natchaug State Forest and the adjacent Goodwin Forest run across the town, providing residents with extensive hiking trails, horse-riding trails, and a cross-country skiing area. The Natchaug River opens up a lot of water activities to visitors and residents, from kayaking to fishing.

From the “Home of the Covered Bridge” to the town bearing a Hebrew name, Connecticut is filled with warm, family-oriented, and vibrant towns. From rolling hills to an extensive forest system, these areas are perfect places to set up camp as an adventurer or a lover of the great outdoors. Pay a visit to any of these towns to uncover their true beauty, or better still, move in immediately with your family and kick-start your new life.

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  1. 14 Beautiful Towns & Cities Near Paris That Are Worth Visiting

    Stunning Towns & Cities Near Paris, France. For convenience's sake, I have listed the French cities near Paris from closest to farthest though they may not necessarily be in the same direction. 1. Chantilly Château Chantilly. Travel time: 25 mins from Gare du Nord by train or 40 mins if you rent a car and drive to Chantilly.

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    Chantilly is 26 miles away, and it will take around 22 minutes to get there via train from the Gare du Nord station. 4. Fontainebleau. Fontainebleau is a charming town close to Paris, boasting a quaint atmosphere, and is home to the Château de Fontainebleau, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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    10. Lourmarin. Recommended Length of Stay: 2-3 Day Excursion (or more to explore the south of France) When Chris and I visited the south of France in November of 2018, our first stop in the Luberon Valley was Lourmarin. It was just the first of many lovely small towns in France with the cutest shops.

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    Best Southern France Cities for a Fabulous Getaway. 1. Marseille. Marseille is a port city and the capital of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region. It is situated between Cannes in the east and Montpellier in the west. This city in Southern France is the oldest in the county, dating back to 600 BC.

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    Trouville-sur-Mer, northern France. Trouville-sur-Mer is less well known than its more visited neighbour, Deauville, but it's a good coastal spot because of its 19th-century boardwalk and seaside shops. The sandy beach here is astonishingly large so it's a great option if you want a little more space in the busy summer months.

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    10. Annecy. Located in the north of the Alps, Annecy´s proximity to Geneva, along with its historic city center, make it a popular day-trip among tourists. Also known as the ´Venice of Savoie´, quaint canals crisscross Annecy and weave their way between its ancient buildings.

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    10. Provins: Medieval village in the heart of France. Provins, a town nestled in the Ile-de-France region, about 90 km southeast of Paris, offers an intriguing portal into the medieval era. This well-preserved UNESCO World Heritage Site is easily accessible by train, making it an appealing day trip destination.

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    By Car: Paris to Bougival i is a 15 km drive which takes around 14 min, depending on the traffic. 9. Montfort L'Amaury. Montfort l'Amaury is one of the best villages near Paris to visit, with an interesting medieval heritage despite its small size. Monfort is located 45km west of Paris, in the region of Ile-de-France.

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    Lyon is the ideal launchpad to the French countryside like Rhône Valley and the magnificent French Alps. Where to stay: Make Presqu'île, the city's island nestled between the Rhône and Saône rivers, your base and spend your nights in Hotel Carlton Lyon or Hotel des Celestins. See more things to do in Lyon. 6. Dijon.

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    2. Fontainebleau. Fontainebleau is located in the Seine-et-Marne, which is only an hour train ride from Paris. It is one of the gorgeous towns near Paris that is also known for its royal castle, Château de Fontainebleau. Since 1981, the castle has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site and is also considered to be the second-largest ...

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    Best Towns and Cities Near Paris to Visit : Versailles, Giverny, Fontainebleau, Provins, and Chartres for history, art, and culture. ... Top 10 Best Tourist Places to Visit in Amiens | France - English. Watch this video on YouTube. Amiens, a charming city in northern France, is an ideal day trip destination from Paris. ...

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