10 Must-See French Attractions Outside of Paris
Wine, Cheese and So Much More
When you think of France, you likely picture Parisian streets lined with book stalls and studded with cafes, accompanied by the sound of a piano accordion. Montmartre, the Champs Elysees, Notre Dame. For most people, France is Paris.
However, while it’s true that Paris is one of the most romantic and mystical cities in Europe, France does not begin and end in the 20 arrondissements of Paris. One of the largest countries in Europe, France has so much more to offer than just the Eiffel Tower. With many distinct regions, the culture, food and traditions vary in every corner of France.
If you look hard enough, you will discover picturesque villages, castles steeped in history, food you have never heard of and even other languages. You could easily spend weeks, if not months, exploring the world that is France-outside-of-Paris, but as time is a luxury most of us cannot afford, picking a highlight from each region is a good place to start.
To narrow it down, here are some of the must-visit France points of interest from the north, south, east and west of the country of wine and cheese.
Mont St Michel, Upper Normandy
A UNESCO World Heritage site, Mont Saint Michel is a tiny island off the coast of Normandy. Crowned with a Benedictine monastery, Mont Saint Michel casts a striking silhouette against the sky. Visitors can follow in the footsteps of pilgrims and walk the causeway out to the island.
The island itself offers sweeping views across the bay and a tangle of steep, narrow streets that house restaurants, hotels and even homes. The main draw though, as it was for the pilgrims years ago, is the abbey of Mont Saint Michel.
Chateaux of the Loire Valley, Centre-Val de Loire
Once the playground of French royalty, the Loire Valley has a fantastically rich historical legacy, which endures in the form of some of the most beautiful castles in the world. The magnificent Chambord and fairy tale Chenonceau cannot be missed.
Wandering through the hallways, winding staircases and ballrooms, you can catch a glimpse of the extravagant lives of King Louis XIV, King Francis I, Catherine de Medici and others.
If you can, timing your visit during Bastille Day in France makes for a wonderful experience in the Loire Valley.
The Jura, Franche-Comté
To well and truly escape the crowds, delve into the beautiful but little known east of France. The Jura region, on the border with Switzerland, is packed full of beautiful lakes, forests, waterfalls and great hiking opportunities. Outdoor enthusiasts rejoice – there’s no better spot to go camping and discover a side of France you never knew existed.