Explore the 208,000 square miles beyond the typical Paris excursion.
While many adventurers jet off to France for the well-trodden Parisian sights, such as the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, and Arc de Triomphe, there is still a vast expanse of the diverse country that’s often overlooked. Granted, Paris is a charming and beautiful city, but if you’re looking for smaller crowds and a little more variety, there are plenty more areas of France to choose from. Boasting many botanical gardens to numerous off-beat museums, there’s something new to discover around every corner in every city.
Palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval | Postman Cheval’s Ideal Palace
Built over the course of 33 years by a visionary postman, the Palais is one of the quirkier sights not to be missed. You can find this architectural marvel halfway between the popular destinations of Lyon and Marseille in southern France.
The city of Metz is an attraction in and of itself. Characterized by a busy and sometimes ill-fated history, evidence of its evolution is apparent in its structures. Having been under rule by Romans, Germans, and French, among others, Metz is a melting pot of historical awe. Visitors can enjoy the varied architecture, Roman-era infrastructures, and contemporary art in this vibrant city.
Jardin des Plantes Botanical | Botanical Garden
Nestled in the western city of Nantes is an ornate garden full of intricate glass greenhouses, art, and, of course, thousands of flowers. If you’re lucky enough to visit the garden in September, you might even get to experience La Folie des Plantes (Plant Madness) too!
Wine enthusiasts will love the Loire Valley experience, with its renowned vineyards and remarkable culinary delights. Also at the heart of the valley is the city of Tours. Surviving significant bombing during WWII, Tours has since been rebuilt, resulting in a fascinating mixture of traditional and modern structures.
Not for the faint-of-heart, this village sits atop a cliff in the Midi-Pyrénées region of southern France. But if you fancy yourself a turophile, you won’t want to miss this spot with its rich cheese history.
Maison de Jules Verne | Jules Verne’s House
History and literary buffs will enjoy a visit to the town of Amiens, just two hours north of Paris. Amiens was home to writer Jules Verne for nearly two decades. During that time, he wrote 30 novels from the study in his home, which is now open to the public.
Parc National de la Vanoise | Vanoise National Park
If your vacations revolve around unique hiking excursions, be sure to stop by Vanoise for some unforgettable trails. For those planning an extended journey, check out the Via Alpina routes. At a length of 5,000 km, you’ll need to invest in some sturdy shoes and time management, but you’ll be rewarded with taking in the exceptional views of eight different countries along the way.
Horreum Romain | Roman Horreum
While this site does have a bit of a creepy vibe to it, being underground and ancient as it is, the historical Roman site is absolutely worth a visit. Situated under the city of Narbonne on the Mediterranean coast, beach-going visitors can easily pop in to explore this enigmatic ancient warehouse.
While France may not be synonymous with an island getaway, don’t forget that it borders the Mediterranean. And not only that, but the idyllic island of Corsica also belongs to France. For adventurers seeking coastal activities, you’ll be hard-pressed to beat the swimming, diving, and paddle boarding available around the lush island.
If you plan to see much of France in one trip, just be sure to allow yourself enough time. Plan ahead for some of the sights you want to see, but also account for more hidden treasures along the way. France has a lot to offer, as you’ll discover when you begin your adventure. You never know what else you might find!
Bio: Will Norquay is an avid traveler, photographer and blogger who often shares his travel stories and journey guides at HomeAway. When not currently traveling, Will might usually be found planning yet another trip or trying to learn Spanish.