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BlogTravel buzz8 places in France you need to visit beyond Paris
castle in the loire valley in france
Travel buzz

8 places in France you need to visit beyond Paris

May 11, 2023 by The Go Ahead Tours Team

Do you dream of traveling to France so that you can see Paris? We totally get it! While a trip to Paris is always a good idea, there are countless places beyond the City of Light that shine. France is a wonderful country to explore because of the variety of cities, towns, and villages that you can visit based on your interests—there’s always something exciting to discover in the most popular tourist sites outside of Paris.

Take it from travel Josef. “While most travelers in France see only Paris, there is so much more to this country,” he said. “The castles, the churches, the green countryside, the medieval towns with their narrow streets and architecture, the food, the wine, and the people were a wonderful experience.”

If you’re asking yourself where to go in France besides Paris, read on to see eight of the best places to visit in France that seamlessly complement a trip to the capital city—or make for an immersive trip all on their own.

low ties exposing the sand around the island of Mont-Saint-Michel, featuring its famous roman-gothic style abbey

1. Normandy

Go here if… you’re a World War II history buff.

If you’re interested in traveling to France for its rich history, a trip to Normandy should be high on your bucket list. You may already know of this coastal region in the northwest because it’s where Allied troops landed in June 1944 to mark D-Day, one of the most important battles of World War II.

Our Paris, Normandy, Brittany Coast & the Loire Valley tour includes an immersive guided visit to the beach where the American troops landed. You’ll also stop at the granite monument honoring the American 2nd Ranger Battalion and the American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, where 9,000 American soldiers are buried. Then stroll through Arromanches, home to one of the main Allied landing harbors, and Honfleur, a picturesque harbor town that’s one of France’s hidden gems.

Explore Normandy

2. Bordeaux

Go here if… you want to be wined and dined.

Looking for major cities besides Paris that are equally dynamic food and wine destinations? You’ll want to travel to Bordeaux, a sought-after wine region that’s one of the most famous places in France. Located in the southwest, Bordeaux’s vineyards are renowned for producing tasty-yet-potent red grapes.

On our Food & Wine: A Taste of Bordeaux & Burgundy tour, you’ll get the opportunity to sample some of the region’s famous wines in the town of Saint-Émilion. We’ll balance all that out with a tour of the city of Bordeaux, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. See historic monuments, sample sweets, and learn the secrets of French cuisine during an interactive cooking class. Thanks to its culinary and wine prowess, Bordeaux is one of the best places to visit in France.

Raise a glass in Bordeaux

3. Lourdes

Go here if… you’re looking to explore the spiritual side of Europe.

When it comes to religious pilgrimage sites, Lourdes, tucked in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains, is the place to go in France. Many Catholics believe that in the 19th century, the Virgin Mary appeared 18 times to a young girl at the Grotto of Massabielle in Lourdes, which has since made this French city one of the most important religious destinations in the world.

Our Marian Shrines & the Way of St. James tour weaves through European towns and villages that have religious significance, and includes an immersive visit to Lourdes. Your Tour Director will lead visits to the houses of Bernadette (the girl who experienced the apparitions), the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes to see the Rosary Basilica, and the Grotto of Massabielle. You can also participate in the Marian Procession, which has been held every night since 1872 and concludes with mass at the grotto. Getting the chance to experience this is one of the many reasons to visit the Way of St. James.

Take a pilgrimage to Lourdes

4. The French Riviera

Go here if… you want to see what the rosé-fueled, beachside allure is all about.

For many travelers, the glitzy reputation of the French Riviera makes it one of the best places to visit in France outside of Paris. Designer boutiques, Michelin-starred meals, gorgeous hikes, and stunning beaches attract global jet-setters to the South of France every year, especially during the summer. You can even add visiting world-class museums to your list of ways to spend 48 hours on the French Riviera.

During our French Riviera & Provence: Nice, Avignon & Aix-en-Provence tour, you’ll experience that combination of striking natural beauty and fabulous glamor. This tour will start with a hike along rocky terrain to the picturesque lighthouse of Cap Ferrat, followed by beach time and people-watching in the outdoor markets of Nice. Your free evening in Nice is a great time to make dinner reservations in one of the many award-winning restaurants. Or, join us on an excursion to explore seaside Monaco.

Soak up the sun on the Riviera

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5. The Loire Valley

Go here if… you want to discover the regal elegance of French chateaux.

Want to head to one of the top destinations featured in our France Travel Guide? Make room in your itinerary to visit the Loire Valley, a lush region two hours southwest of Paris. If you’re looking for beautiful places in France—the type that would be worthy of a painting hanging in a museum—the Loire Valley ticks all the right boxes. It’s magnificently verdant with rolling vineyards, and is dotted with fairy-tale chateaux, imposing fortresses, historic castles, and the prettiest gardens you can imagine.

Our Grand Tour of France includes two nights in the Loire Valley, during which your Tour Director will guide you through all the nooks and crannies of the opulent Château de Chenonceau. Its surrounding gardens are especially legendary and make for a picturesque photo op. You can then cap your day off with an excursion to a local wine cellar to sample some of the region’s tastiest wines over a fun dinner.

Live like royalty in the Loire Valley

6. The French Alps

Go here if… you want to explore the great outdoors.

You know what the French Alps region has that Paris doesn’t? Snowcapped mountains that you can hike in the summer and ski in the winter. The French Alps, which stretch over a chunk of southeast France, include some of the most iconic peaks in Europe. That means that a visit to the region can add outdoorsy adventure to your trip to France.

On our French Riviera & Provence: Nice, Avignon & Aix-en-Provence tour, add the French Alps extension to spend three nights in one of the best places to visit in France. You’ll stroll through the charming streets of Chamonix, which sits at the base of legendary Mont Blanc. Then, take the Montenvers cog railway thousands of feet up the mountain to marvel at Mer de Glace, the largest glacier in France. The final day of the trip is all yours for the taking. Hike around the Alps during free time, or add our excursion to Haute-Savoie to walk through the narrow canyon of Fier Gorge and visit Menthon-Saint-Bernard Castle, the inspiration for the castle in Sleeping Beauty.

Uncover the French Alps

7. Aix-en-Provence

Go here if… you’re an art lover looking to be inspired.

If you find yourself asking, “What are some interesting places to visit in France?” don’t miss sun-drenched Aix-en-Provence—one of the prettiest places to visit in Provence. This region on the northern edge of the South of France boasts a unique type of magic. It has world-class vineyards bottling summer-perfect rosé wines, meandering bike paths flanked by fields of lavender, and beautifully preserved historic towns from the Roman and medieval eras. No wonder celebrated artists like Van Gogh and Matisse have fallen in love with this beautiful place in France.

On our Provence, the Riviera & Tuscany tour, you’ll be cocooned in Provence’s thrilling energy for three days. For art lovers, the highlight of this itinerary might be following Paul Cézanne’s footsteps through Aix. Visit his birthplace, see where he went to school, and stop in the studio where he created some of his best paintings. You’ll also drive through the rugged landscapes of the Luberon Regional Nature Park, tour the soaring village of Gordes (a hilltop destination with some of the best views of Provence), and peruse the farmer’s market in Aix. Pro tip: Handmade soaps make for some of the best souvenirs!

Get inspired in Provence

8. Annecy

Go here if… you want to ease into small-town life.

There are many famous places in France, but perhaps more under-the-radar is the lakeside village of Annecy. With the Alps framing one side, Lake Annecy on the other, and an Old Town from the Middle Ages with a canal running through it, Annecy looks like it’s been plucked out of a fairy tale. Those postcard-worthy good looks are what make it one of the best places to visit in France outside of Paris.

On our Jewels of Alpine Europe tour, the one-night stop in Annecy is all about appreciating all this beauty. Start with a meandering stroll through the Old Town, where you’ll stop at stained-glass covered churches, join locals at the outdoor produce market, and enjoy views of the Alps. What’s a trip to France without slowing down to enjoy the good stuff?

Settle into Annecy

Ready to plan your trip to France? Shop our France tours today to get your next trip on the books.

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About the author | The Go Ahead Tours Team
We’re a team of passionate travel experts, dedicated to helping people explore the world. From inspiring stories to tips for an amazing trip, the topics we cover are all about getting you out there and making discoveries.

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