When you think of traveling to France, it’s no surprise that the first thing that comes to your mind is Paris. Affectionately known as the City of Lights, over thirty million tourists visit France’s capital city each year. But next time when you’re voyaging all the way across the Atlantic, why not extend your stay and venture beyond Paris to see more of what makes this country so unique? From standout cities to sprawling vineyards, to historic castles and more, here are some my favourite spots to explore in France that are easily accessible by train or short flight.
1. The Cultural Hub of Nantes.
Explore the vibrant city of Nantes to see the fusion of traditional French architecture (in what was once the capital of Brittany) juxtaposed by the emergence of contemporary art installations found all over the city.
This unique city is only a two-hour train ride away from Paris and home to such tourist attractions as The Castle of the Duke of Brittany, The Machines de L’ile and the Sea World Merry-Go-Round and the XIX century shopping arcade, The Passage Pommeraye.
And for the best view of the city, be sure to grab a drink at Le Nid at the top of the “Tour Bretagne” for a breathtaking aerial view of Nantes. In just a short drive outside of the city, you can escape to see the vineyards of Nantes, wander through the historic medieval town of Clisson or relax by Atlantic Ocean for the afternoon, making this the ideal travel destination.
2. The Châteaux of the Loire Valley.
Halfway between Paris to Nantes, spend a day or two living like royalty by exploring the world famous French Renaissance castles in the Loire Valley. Travel through the quaint towns of Amboise, Blois, Chinon, Orléans, Saumur and Tours and stop by one of nearly fifty castles that are open to the public.
Each castle has been designed in a unique architectural style that helps to illustrate the history and unique owners who once lived there many centuries ago. And for the active and adventurous traveler, why not explore this area by bicycle to see the castles over the span of a couple of hours (or even days!)?
3. The Vineyards of Bordeaux.
Bordeaux is only a three-hour train ride from Paris and in the Gironde department of Aquitaine is home to some of the most renowned wineries in the world. Stay in this 18th century UNESCO World Heritage city and venture beyond the pristine white architecture to explore the two main wine regions, the Left Bank region of Medoc and Graves and the Right Bank areas of Libournais, Bourg and Blaye.
The vineyards around Bordeaux create their own unique blend of red (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot) and white (Sauvignon blanc, Sémillon and Muscadelle) grape varieties to create sensational wines that are distributed all over the world.
4. The Culinary Landscape of Lyon.
Located in the eastern-central area of France, Lyon is France’s third largest city and is just under two hours away from Paris by train. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Lyon is divided into a number of distinct districts attracting tourists to the historic Fourvière, Vieux Lyon, Croix-Rousse and a large part of Presqu’île.
But the one thing that makes Lyon truly unique is the regional cuisine found in the local bouchons. If you get the chance to visit this dynamic city, be sure to save some time to indulge in some of the traditional delicacies such as thesaucisson chaud, gratin dauphinois and the popular favorite,le coq au vin.
5. The Beaches of Nice.
As one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world and the capital of the French Rivera, hop on a flight with Air France in Paris and arrive in Nice in just an hour and a half. Relax in the south of France by the Mediterranean Sea to experience the charm and culture of the Côte d’Azur’s beautiful blue waters and pebble beaches. To explore through more of this stunning region, travel to the Principality of Monaco to experience life like Grace Kelly or drop by Cannes to experience the sandy beaches and spot celebrities.
Have you discovered a region outside of Paris that you love? Where?