French towns worth the detour.
We all know the main coveted French cities when visiting France: Paris, Bordeaux, Marseille, Lille…etc. Even though these cities are wonderful, we chose to shine a light on five French towns that are as beautiful and historic, sadly, not as famous. These villages are as much part of France as any other.
1. Provins, Seine et Marne: Game of Thrones à la française
How to get there:
Two options are available if you are coming from Paris. You can either drive there or take the train from Paris Gare de l’Est as it is only a 1H30 ride. Provins is a fairly compact town. You will not need a vehicle during your visit.
This little town is worth the detour. Be prepared for a real journey back in time. Provins is listed as a World Heritage Site due to its medieval fortifications. As you are strolling through this enchanting town, you might as well be in the Middle Age. During the 12th and 13th century, Provins was famous for its Champagne Fairs, where people came from all over Europe to buy and sell anything. Nowadays, the little town has not lost its mediaeval charm. During the year, Provins is animated by its numerous events, including: the Medieval Fair in June, the Christmas market, and the overall shows performed throughout the year. This town is the perfect destination for any medieval fan, especially if you want to experience a banquet with troubadours or see an eagle hunt! We recommend staying for a weekend, however, it is not guaranteed that you will want to leave!
2. Grignan, Drôme: Mount St Michel (on grass)
How to get there:
To reach Grignan, we suggest driving there. Even though the village in itself can be done by foot, it is 10 km away from the nearest town. There is a lot to visit in the area.
Located between Montelimar and Nyons, you cannot miss this little village. Proudly perched on the hills overlooking lavender fields, Grignan is the definition of a provincial town. Voted the 159th most beautiful village in France in 2019, it really deserves its rank. The town is gathered around the castle – hence its nickname – giving us a harmonious result. The castle – former fortress – is the biggest chateau of the Renaissance period in the southeast, however, good luck for the climb! Built around the 12th century, the château houses a spectacular collection of tapestries, furniture, and paintings. Grignan is home to many sites you have to visit, including: the fountain, the neo-Greek temple, the original fortress walls, and the old part of the village. Grignan is a combination of history, festivities, and incredible sites.
3. Aigues-Mortes, Gard: Between Land and Sea
How get there:
Located in the south of France, near Montpellier, we recommend you drive there, especially if you want to visit the Camargue region. If you are coming from Montpellier, you can also take the train. The line Nîmes-Grau du Roi serves the village. This medieval beauty must be earned!
Aigues-Mortes is incredibly famous in the south of France for its fortress walls and towers. The whole village is located inside the fortress. Built under the rule of Louis 9th, the fortress walls extend over 1640 m², which constituted as an impenetrable fort at the time. Former military compound, this town is perfectly well-preserved and stands out by its Gothic architecture, gargoyles, and sculptures. Aside from its astonishing architecture, this town has the privilege of being located in the Camargue region. You can admire the beautiful and breathtaking landscapes from the top of the dungeons. Aigues-Mortes is unique in Europe for being situated between land and sea. At the heart of a wild yet peaceful nature, admire the 200 bird species, and the 208 plant species that develop in this particular area. After visiting this town, take the opportunity to go horseback riding on the beach or at the edge of the salt marshes.
4. L’ile-sur-la-Sorgue, Vaucluse : The Venise of France
How to get there:
If you are coming from Paris, the quickest option is with a car. It is the perfect opportunity to do some sightseeing as beautiful landscapes will stand before you. There are no trains to Ile-sur-la-Sorgue, however, if you are coming from Avignon, you can either take the bus or rent a car.
This town nicknamed the “island city”, is surrounded by canals. The former fishermen’s village is renowned for its antique fairs. If you love art, antiques, and flea markets, this little town is for you! With more than 300 antique shops, you will not be disappointed. As you wander through the streets you will see why this village is greatly appreciated. Between its subtle street art, boutiques, and waterwheel, we guarantee you will fall in love with the scenery. Fun fact: L’île-sur-la-Sorgue has set a European record: being in third place for the largest flea market in Europe. This town is not only for antique fans but for the hungry ones as well. Indeed, the floating market is colorful and refreshing. Fill up on local products with cheese, fruits, vegetables, and wine! This market dates back to the 12th century, and is considered to be one of the oldest markets of Provence. If you have the chance, we suggest coming for Easter or August 15th, as the town welcomes more than 500 exponents and artists.
5. Roussillon, Vaucluse : A countryside coup de cœur
How to get there:
As you probably guessed, driving there is the best solution if you want to visit the area. You can also take the bus from Avignon to Roussillon, but you will not be able to move freely if you do not rent a car.
Roussillon is a former province of the Kingdom of France. Located in the same department as Ile-sur-la-Sorgue, Roussillon is one of the most beautiful villages in the country due to its flamboyant color. Jean Vilar, a French comedian, once said the village resembled a painter’s palette. At the heart of the most important ochre deposit in Europe – hence its color – come and admire the unique and surprising shade! The pink and orange calmly clash with the green of the forest which gives us a real-life painting. As you enter the village, you will be in awe of the picturesque alleys. You will come across many painter’s workshops as numerous artists came to Roussillon for inspiration. Apart from visiting the old town, you can hike or mountain bike on the ochre cliffs.
Eve stayed one weekend in each town.