A couple of months back, Camden from Baguettes and Bicyclettes wrote a post on her favorite hidden gems in the south of France. I was inspired by her post to create my own, although this one will include my personal favorites from all over France, in general. Some are bigger in size, others more-famous… but the way I’m defining a “hidden gem” is by its locality (i.e. locals within the region know of the place). Regardless, they’re all beautiful in their respect, and I hope you enjoy their beauty, too. C’est parti!

PS You’ll find a handful of hidden gems from the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, as I lived there in my last two years in France and explored a good amount of them. I’m biased, I know!

10 Hidden Gems in France

1. Étretat (Normandy)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is screenshot_2016-12-31-19-33-39-11.png
A chilly day in Étretat (December 2016).

The white cliffs along this coastal town in Upper Normandy is a popular vacation spot for locals all-year round. Rivalling that of Dover’s in the UK, the chalky bluff has inspired the paintings of Monet and the writings of Maupassant, the latter who spent his childhood in Étretat. The small town is the perfect weekend getaway, or at least a day trip to hike above the cliffs and enjoy a beer by the shore.

2. Dinan (Brittany)

20160326_131945Old Town of Dinan (March 2016).

Paired with Saint-Malo (its more-popular cousin), the small town of Dinan is cold and cloudy for most of the year, due to the infamous Brittany weather. However, there is beauty to the overcast and rainy skies, which evoke a somber, brooding atmosphere to its medieval Old Town. Walking its well-preserved ramparts, as well as a dip inside the Château de Dinan, offers a great introduction to Breton culture: tough, resilient, and proud.

3. Eguisheim (Alsace)

20181127_081709Taking the tourist circuit (November 2018).

This village is considered one of “les plus beaux villages de France,” and it’s no wonder: its narrow cobblestone streets are accentuated by the colorful, half-timbered homes, which are characteristic of the Alsatian charm that the region has to offer. It is common to take the “circular circuit” around the periphery of Eguisheim, to get the general beauty of the village, before continuing on the “wine route” to other charming villages in Alsace.

4. Pérouges (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes)

Inside the fortifications of Pérouges (September 2017).

Another of “les plus beaux villages de France,” Pérouges is strategically-built on a hill overlooking the Ain River, and is walled-off in its medieval center. The village is historically-home to craftsmen specialized in linen, but today is a popular tourist attraction for locals within and around Lyon. Pérouges is pretty with its rustic walls and buildings, occasionally accented with potted flowers. It’s also imperative to try the galette de Pérouges, a sweet, local specialty!

5. Palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes)

Le palais idéal (October 2017).

Among the others listed, this one takes the cake for being the “most hidden” gem in France. Located in the tiny town of Hauterives, le palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval is an incredible landmark constructed by a postman in the late 19th century. Getting to the site without a car is tricky, but doable if you have the will and drive to do so! You could easily spend an afternoon admiring the details of the “palace,” as well as climb it like a playground!

6. Le Puy en Velay (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes)

20180908_151716Views of town (September 2018).

“Le Puy” for short, this small town has been a notable pilgrimage site for those journeying along the Camino de Santiago in France, as well as where Charlemagne had visited in the 8th century. Three of its major sites are located on three hilltops– the cathedral, the Virgin Lady statue, and the Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe chapel– all stunning to see. Le Puy also hosts the region-famous Fête du Roi de l’Oiseau every September to revel and make merry in.

7. Albi (Occitanie)

View of cathédrale Sainte-Cécile from the Tarn River (January 2018).

Just an hour from Toulouse, the small city of Albi is a delight with its rustic, brick architecture, all situated along the mighty Tarn River. Its cathédrale Sainte-Cécile is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, wondrous in its imposing Gothic stature, and the palais de la Berbie just around the corner offers a beautifully-manicured garden to stroll in, with views of the river from the ramparts. You can easily spend a day discovering all that Albi has to offer!

8. Pau (Nouvelle-Aquitaine)

Boulevard des Pyrénées (February 2016).

Pau is considered more of a big city than a small town, but it’s not as well-known as its more-famous brother, Bordeaux, about two hours away. Regardless, Pau is a unique city in regards to its location, as it’s straddled between the snow-capped Pyrénées and the hillsides of the Jurançon wine country. Its elevated Boulevard des Pyrénées is a treat to stroll along, offering somewhat Californian vibes with its warm sunshine and palm trees.

9. Rocamadour (Occitanie)

20190628_130056Views of the village (June 2019).

Nestled deep in the Lot department of Occitanie, this small village is impressive in the way it was built, i.e. along a cliff. Rather than being spread out on even ground, Rocamadour was constructed vertically, and its views from the distance are impressive. Its appeal is also due to its obscurity, as it can be a challenge getting there by public transport. But the pilgrimage over to this historically-religious town is all the more worth it in the end.

10. Menton (Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur)

20190704_122046Along the port (July 2019).

Menton is situated just steps away from Italy (3 kilometers/1.9 miles), yet it still retains its French-ness, particularly that of the French Riviera. It’s a colorful, small town known for its lemon production, and you can’t help but fall in love with the yellow-orange walls of its Old Town, as well as the charm of its stunning harbor. It’s never a bad idea to relax with a glass of rosé by the dockside, to take in the beauty of the “pearl of France.”

There are plenty of other hidden gems I did not list in this post, so it merits another one in due course. 🙂

What are your favorite hidden gems in France? Let me know! Bonne journée.

— Rebecca

58 thoughts on “10 Hidden Gems in France

    1. I hope you can go back to France someday and take your time exploring more of it. The Brittany region is especially lovely, as evident with Dinan. I’d also recommend Saint Malo there, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Okay, when I saw Menton I initially thought that it was that town in Italy from a low-lying POV. Cinque Terre? Is that right? I think it looks very similar. When you said it’s not far from Italy, now I’m thinking they’re probably really close to one another.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You make a great point; Menton looks very similar to the Cinque Terre! I’d hiked the five Italian villages several years ago, and it wasn’t until I visited Menton a couple of years later that I realize that colorful houses (and a bit of sunshine) give off that Italian flair. Gorgeous places all-around!

      Like

  2. Wonderful. The only one I’ve visited on your list is Eguisheim. I was scheduled to visit Étretat last spring and then the pandemic hit. Le Palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval is truly bizarre. It reminds me of something you might find in India. A very worldly 19th-century postman, apparemment.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Eguisheim is a wonderful little gem in Alsace; it was a delight visiting the village, especially during the marché de Noël season! I hope you get to go to Étretat post-pandemic, and I do encourage you to check out le palais Idéal if you’re ever more south in France!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Now I’ve got 10 more places in France to add to my list! Alsace region is next for me I think. Menton with the colourful buildings look so enticing. I can just imagine the warmth and being out eating really nice food (mentally drifting away).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Menton in the summertime is glorious, being warm and sunny, yet with the Mediterranean breeze flowing in…I’m ready to return for a lovely lunch and rosé by the port! 😁 Hope you can go, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Love this post of the hidden gems in France – not another post about visiting the Eiffel Tower XD Those white cliffs along Upper Normandy look absolutely stunning. Those curves look so pleasing and aesthetic. These places all look so walkable. Quite a few different towns and each one looks like they have their own charm.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. To be fair, I’ve written posts about the Eiffel Tower before, haha. France is an advantageous place to visit, as the cities and towns are very walkable, or at least public transport-friendly. Different regions have their own distinctive flair, despite all being in the same country. Thanks for dropping by, Mabel! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post and wonderful photos, Rebecca. Travelers in France are always drawn to the mainstream attractions like St Tropez, Nice, Avignon, and of course, Paris. But France has a lot more to offer than just the Eiffel Tower, the Riviera, and Mont-Saint-Michel. One of my favourite discoveries was Dinan closely followed by Menton. I couldn’t believe that I haven’t even heard about those places before I stumbled upon them. Thanks for sharing and have a good day. Aiva 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re absolutely right, Aiva. There are so many places to see in France outside île-de-France and the French Riviera that you could spend lifetimes seeing them all. Thanks for stopping by, and take care!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I loved this list! This is why I feel like I’m not ready to leave France just yet… there are so many places to discover! I’ve only been to Dinan out of the ones you’ve mentioned. I really would love to see more places in Occitanie once the lockdown is over here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Living in France has its advantages, especially for taking trips to such beautiful gems. Occitanie is my favorite region in the country, and I can imagine myself retiring there and visiting all of the charming villages! Hope you make it over; you’re not far from it!

      Like

  7. Such an interesting post Rebecca. Through your post I discovered lots of places I’d like to visit some day. Quite awhile back we drove the wine route through Alsace which was delightful with its quaint buildings with bright red geraniums adorning almost every window box. Oh to travel again! Marion

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Alsatian wine route is certainly picturesque! I strolled it during my visit to Eguisheim and the surrounding villages (Riquewihr, Ribeauvillé…) and even in the dreary, late-fall season, the vineyards were stunning!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Great post! I’ve gotten as far as Le Havre, then missed the bus to Etretat, so i definitely can’t wait to give it another shot – it looks so beautiful ☺️😍

    Liked by 2 people

  9. You touched a soft spot here, as we had to cancel our trip to France last year (for Provence). The only place, from your list, we visited was Palais Ideal. Gorge du Verdun was another favourite place, which we planned to see it more thoroughly, if covid wasn’t coming. But so much to see, and so little time..
    Thank you for sharing, Christie, xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m very surprised you visited le palais Idéal, especially out of the more-touristy places I visited! Le palais Idéal is one of the lesser-known spots known outside of the locals in the region, but I’m glad you discovered it. Les Gorges du Verdon have continued to elude me since my first year abroad, and I really hope to head out there should I return to France someday! Thanks for dropping by, Christie. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, definitely! I haven’t visited as much of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region as I would’ve liked, but all the more reason to return someday. Hope you can make it over to Pau soon!

      Like

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s