12 places you should visit in France that aren’t Paris

The streets of Nice, France, are lined with colorful buildings.

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The streets of Nice, France, are lined with colorful buildings.
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monticello / iStock

  • Paris isn’t the only travel destination France has to offer.
  • Between the fairytale villages of Alsace and the beaches of Cannes and Nice, there’s an ideal vacation spot for everyone.
  • Here are 12 underrated places to visit in France.

Paris regularly ranks as one of the most romantic, lusted-after, and visited cities on earth, attracting nearly 18 million international tourists in 2018 alone.

But the “City of Love” is just the beginning of France’s magic and charm.

No matter what interests you, there is a French city where you’ll find yourself enchanted by scenery, culinary arts, history, and more. On your next trip to France, immerse yourself in the culture of these 12 underrated destinations.


Colorful Alsace has German and French influences.

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The village of Eguisheim in France’s Alsace region.
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Bernard Fidel/Flickr

Situated along the French-German border, Alsace has influences from both countries. The region is beloved for its colorful fairytale villages such as Colmar, Riquewihr, and Eguisheim, as well as its world-renowned wine.

Alsace is also home to the oldest traditional Christmas market in France, which is held in Strasbourg and brings the magic of the holidays to life each year.


Take a stroll along the French Riviera in Nice.

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Nice’s coastline.
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Sébastien Bertrand/Flickr

Dreams of summer afternoons on the French Riviera come true in Nice. The fifth-largest city in France, Nice is best known for enchanting visitors with warm weather and views of the sea from the Promenade des Anglais.


Return to the days of the Renaissance in Lyon.

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The Church of St. George in Lyon.
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Jose A./Flickr

Lyon is the third-largest city in France. Founded by the Romans, the city boasts one of Europe’s largest and best-preserved Renaissance neighborhoods, Vieux Lyon, as well as two Roman amphitheatres.

UNESCO has designated parts of Lyon as a World Heritage Site. Foodies will fall in love with the city for its 2,000 restaurants, while sport travelers might choose to cycle down Via Rhôna, a path that leads all the way to the Mediterranean Sea.


Relax in the sunshine in the port city of Marseille.

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Marseille is sunny 300 days of the year, on average.
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POOL New/Reuters

The port city of Marseille is marked by its gorgeous coastline, charming harbor, and dazzling blue water. It was built in 600 B.C by the Greeks and is the oldest city in France, and it’s been wonderfully preserved. To top it all off, Marseille experiences an average of 300 days of sunshine every year, making it an ideal getaway no matter the season.


The medieval streets of Montpellier will enchant you.

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A street in Montpellier.
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Eric Lopez/Flickr

Not far from the Mediterranean Sea, the streets of Montpellier are abundant with incredible architecture and medieval alleyways. The Place de la Comédie, home to the Opera Comédie, offers visitors endless options for shopping and fine dining, while art lovers can visit museums like the Musée Fabre.


The castles of the Loire Valley will make you feel like royalty.

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A vineyard in the Loire Valley.
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Getty Images/Daniel Vi±T Garcia

For those who wish to see how French royalty once lived, the Loire Valley is a must-see. The region is a quick train ride from Paris and home to some of the most lavish estates in the country. Castles like the Château de Chambord and Château de Chenonceau earned the area between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes a UNESCO World Heritage Site title. And when you’re done exploring castles, you can taste some of the region’s wines.


Mont-Saint-Michel looks like a dream.

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Mont-Saint-Michel and the surrounding bay are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
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Wikimedia Commons

If you fall in love with the castles of the Loire Valley, Mont-Saint-Michel should be next on your list. The island is topped with a monastery and has long been a site of European pilgrimage. Located hours from any inhabited city, the bay surrounding the island and the island itself are now UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Read more: My best travel trick for high tourist season is a no-brainer, and I’m always shocked when people don’t do it


Annecy is sometimes called the “Venice of the Alps.”

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Annecy has remarkable turquoise canals.
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Flickr/gelinh

Annecy is a fairytale-like village built around the turquoise water of the Thiou River and surrounded by mountains. It’s filled with colorful buildings and canals.


Reims celebrates its heritage with a glass of champagne.

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A street in Reims.
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Fab5669/Wikimedia Commons

Reims is often considered the capital of France’s Champagne region. Visitors can explore its Roman remains, churches, and museums. If at this point during your French holiday you begin to feel wistful for Paris, fear not: one of Paris’s most iconic attractions, Notre-Dame, has a twin in Reims.


Cannes is more than red carpets and movie stars.

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The port in Cannes.
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Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

The site of the eponymous film festival, Cannes exudes luxury even after the red carpets have been rolled up. You can see Le Suquet, the oldest district in Cannes, or the La Croisette promenade, which has a view of the gulf.


Toulouse is pretty in pink.

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Toulouse is known as “La Ville Rose.”
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Peter Hurford/Flickr

Toulouse is also known as “La Ville Rose” for its pink and orange terracotta buildings. It sits just north of the Spanish border in southwest France and has 160 parks and gardens.


Have a glass of wine (or several) in Bordeaux.

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The Water Mirror in Bordeaux.
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Tony Hisgett/Flickr

Bordeaux‘s vineyards have earned the city the title of world wine capital, and there’s plenty of entertainment to go with drinks: Bordeaux is home to a number of art museums, an opera house, and the Water Mirror, which is in a three-centuries-old square and is a contemporary UNESCO World Heritage Site.