Our favourite towns and villages in France, part deux
14 more for you to weave into a road trip
We’re back to France, a country that Gary and I never tire of visiting. We just love jumping in the car, heading across the English Channel, et voila, 35 minutes later you’re in the land of baguettes and brie.
Pont des Amours in Annecy
It has so much to offer from the quaint hilltop villages in the south, little towns hidden amongst the rolling vineyards of Jura in the east, to the bustling harbours in the west.
So as a sequel to 16 of our much-loved towns and cities in France, we’ve selected a few more places for you to add to your adventures around this picturesque country.
A helpful guide
I love nothing more than planning a trip through France and so often I use the DK Eyewitness books. I find them extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more.
We used a previous version of this book to plan our French road trips, now you can grab the revised copy.
Arbois was a lovely little town we discovered last year in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region in the east of France. Nestled within the vineyards of Jura, this area produces some amazing wines. Including vin jaune a yellow wine and vin de Paille a straw wine, both with quite distinctive flavours.
The Cuisance River flowing through Arbois
Arbois is also known for its famous resident, the chemist Louis Pasteur who lived in the town with his family. Louis Pasteur’s house is now a fascinating museum where you can visit his lab and stroll around the courtyard garden.
Place de la Liberté, Arbois
If you enjoy cheese, make sure you try the speciality of the region, a Comte fondue. Gary and I shared one at La Finette Taverne, it was undoubtedly tasty; however, make sure you’re hungry.
The ancient city of Nîmes is located in the south of France, in the region of Occitanie. It has some incredible history dating back to the Roman Empire. It’s an interesting city to stroll around, there are some lovely bustling squares where you can sit and watch the world go by. However, you must head to the Arena of Nîmes, which is an amazing Roman amphitheatre built in AD 70. It now holds various events within its ancient walls, including open-air concerts.
Arena of Nîmes
Only about 14 miles (25km) from Nîmes is another feat of Roman Engineering and that’s the UNESCO World Heritage site of Pont du Gard.
The impressive fortified city of Carcassonne can be seen for miles around and is also located in the southern region of Occitanie. The Medieval fortress is fascinating to stroll around, it dates back to the Gallo-Roman period. It has a drawbridge, two outer walls and a staggering 53 towers, they certainly weren’t welcoming strangers.
The historic walled city of Carcassonne
Carcassonne is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has also been used on numerous occasions for stages in the Tour de France, most recent being 2018.
Have you seen?
Our post on 12 of France’s incredible UNESCO World Heritage Sites, you may want to add some of these to your road trip.
We’re now heading to the south-west of France to Saint-Émilion in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region. You may have heard of this little commune as its famous for its wines, we can kindly thank the Romans for planting in this area during the 2nd century.
Well, I’ll certainly thank them.
Looking over St-Emillion
Saint-Émilion has some fantastic history amongst its tiny little lanes, with ruins and tranquil churches for you to wander around. If you head up through the winding streets to the top, you’ll enjoy beautiful scenic views across rolling vineyards.
We’ve now reached the town of Épernay in the Grand Est region, this can only mean one thing ‘Champagne’.
Château Perrier on the Avenue de Champagne in Épernay
Épernay is a lovely town to stroll around, you must wander along the elegant Avenue de Champagne and see the stylish Champagne Houses. The buildings are amazing and have a real sense of presence about them, particularly with their imposing wrought iron gates.
Here you’ll find the likes of Moet et Chandon, Perrier-Jouet and Pol Roger, to name just a few.
Now I know Ay could be considered within throwing distance of Épernay, but I think it is worth a mention in its own right. Ay is now located in the new commune of Aÿ-Champagne, and the vineyards here are classified as Grand Cru. So, it isn’t surprising that Bollinger has its Champagne House here.
The pretty little town of Ay in the Champagne region
This little town is lovely to stroll around, but, make sure you watch out for the grape tractors passing through, these guys have a job to do.
Not only is Ay famed for its wine it also has a historical trail guiding you through the life of René Lalique the glass designer, who was born in Ay.
Ahh, we are now in Normandy in the northwest of France and a region full of so much history.
Statue of Louis XIV in Place Saint-Sauveur, Caen
There is a castle set high in the town here; however, what I found surprising was that Caen has two Abbeys. The Abbaye aux Dames (Women's Abbey) now known as Eglise de la Ste.-Trinité. Also, it has the Abbaye aux Hommes (Men's Abbey) which is now known as Eglise St.-Etienne. Within the Men’s Abbey is the tomb of William the Conqueror.
Start creating your own French adventure and discover some the enchanting towns and villages for yourself, by flying easyJet or British Airways. These are just a couple of options that you can take to the beautiful country.
Or alternatively, jump on Le Shuttle and tour through France under your own steam.
The Medieval hilltop village of Èze is in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, along the French Riviera. It’s only around 8 miles from Nice, so if you don’t have a car, you can hop on a bus.
Inside the hillside village of Èze
It is a beautiful place to visit the tiny pedestrian cobbled lanes wind amongst colourful flower pots and charming courtyards. There’s the eye-catching ochre church of Notre Dame de l’Assomption which was built in 1764, which can be seen for miles around. When you reach the top of the village, the views across the Côte d'Azur are incredible.
Inside the hillside village of Èze
Èze is probably a place you should visit first thing in the morning or later in the afternoon as it does get reasonably busy around the enchanting streets.
We are still in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region; however, we are now in Arles. Wow, this town has some history and just shouts Provence to you. Wooden window shutters flung open to the sunshine and the rustic streets tempting you with lavender.
A window in Arles, Provence
There is an incredible amount of history in Arles, the two-tier Roman Amphitheatre which was founded in 90 AD, stands very prominent in the town. Arles Roman monuments have been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1981. Also, one of its famous residents was once the artist Vincent van Gogh.
The edge of the amphitheatre in Arles
The quiet streets of Arles
Arles is just on the edge of the Camargue Natural Region, where the locally sourced fleur de sel comes from and also the ancient breed of Camargue horses.
This is a lovely area for a day out.
If you love Provence
One of the towns we love to stay at in Provence is Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. It’s fantastic to use as a base to explore the region, and you definitely won’t mind returning each evening to discover another restaurant.
Obernai is in north-eastern France in the Alsace region, and I would say reasonably unknown. Often people visit Strasbourg; however, there are some lovely little towns like Obernai that are so worthy of your time as well.
St Odiles Fountain in the Place du Marche in Obernai
You can feel that you are close to the German border, colourful half-timbered buildings overflowing with brightly planted window boxes. Head to the old town market square where there are some beautifully kept buildings in this picturesque town.
While you’re here, you must also try the regional tarte flambée, washed down with the local tipple. We visited Alsace a few times, and the little wine glasses with the green stems always remind us of Alsace (we’ve even brought some home with us).
Last year we finally visited Annecy, I’d seen so many beautiful pictures of the place, I just wanted to go. And it didn’t disappoint, I can imagine in the summer months it would get quite busy, as there are plenty of outdoor activities to do, as well as visiting this historic, picturesque town.
The Palais de l'Isle in Annecy
Annecy is in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region and has an incredible mountain backdrop to look upon and don’t get me started on how pretty the lake is.
A view over Lake Annecy in the morning
Wind your way through the ancient lanes and canals, and you’ll find some charming little squares, especially along Rue Sainte-Claire. If you’re heading to Annecy for the market, arrive early. Tuesday is for the food market & Friday and Sunday for the larger food and textile market.
Another picturesque hilltop village is Saint-Paul-de-Vence in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. One of the oldest medieval towns in the French Riviera.
The view out over St Paul de Vence
The views across the surrounding countryside are incredible, you most definitely know you’ve arrived in Provence. I just love all the rugged hills and the buildings nestled in between.
a fountain in St Paul de Vence
Some surprises in St Paul de Vence
Take a stroll through Saint-Paul-de-Vence’s pedestrian cobbled lanes, and you’ll see why it is such an attraction for artists. Every corner you turn there is something else to discover, either a charming little courtyard, tiny narrow streets or steps leading through to archways beyond.
As we headed out of the village, we stopped to watch the locals play an evening game of boules and spotted a lady smoking a pipe, you wouldn’t think smoking could look so elegant.
Take a look
If you’re visiting Saint-Paul-de-Vence, head to the idyllic French Riviera town of Villefranche-sur-Mer, you won’t want to leave.
We’ve now arrived in Burgundy to the town of Auxerre in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region. Standing proud within the town is the lovely Gothic-style Cathedral of St. Étienne, built during the 13th century.
The view of Auxerre on the banks of Yonne
We took an enjoyable stroll along the banks of the Yonne River, which was lined with canal boats, heading off to discover the lush countryside around this wonderful wine region.
A view of Chablis in the Burgundy region of France
While we stayed in Auxerre, we used it as a base to discover further afield, we couldn’t resist visiting the delightful village of Chablis. Well, we had tried their wines a few times, so thought it was only polite to take a wander around.
The wash pool Tonnerre
A little further on from Chablis is the town of Tonnerre and here is an incredible spring named Fosse Dionne. The wash basin is impressive, it almost looks unreal and should be in a Spielberg movie.
The covered wash basin was added around the spring in the 18th-century. Divers have explored parts of the spring; however, it has proved to be very dangerous.
Last and by no means least we head to the west coast of France to the beautiful coastal town of Honfleur in Normandy. This place has so much character who could resist sitting by the harbourside enjoying a freshly made galette with a glass of local cider?
An inspiration for artists - Honfleur
Not only does it have a pleasant harbour, but the town is also lovely too. It has become reasonably popular over the years; however, it is still a town I urge you to visit. It is picturesque all year around, so I suggest perhaps heading there spring time.
In our opinion
Inspired to visit France?
There are some beautiful towns and villages just waiting to be explored, one of our favourite regions is Provence
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You’ve chosen some real beauties here and I’m impressed with the amount of France you’ve managed to cover – there are some towns from lots of different regions here. I’ll be saving this post to inspire future trips as we love France too. Thanks for sharing on #farawayfiles
Gary and I love visiting France, we’ve been to so many regions now, I would go back time and again.
We also head off on a lot of road trips to other parts of the continent so we usually have an overnight stop off in France.
Whenever I hear about Carcassonne I always think of the game, lol! But in all seriousness, I love your photography. So stunning! #farawayfiles
Thanks very much Allison, the credit goes to Gary for the photography.
I’ve never played Carcassonne, I’ll keep a look out for it.
Another beautiful and inspiring post! I just can’t get over the photos, and that you’re able to visit so many places, I envy you there. We had France on our radar this summer, but work schedules got in the way… maybe next year? In the meantime I’ll dream of going there while looking at your beautiful photos. #farawayfiles
Thanks very much Hilary, we do have a bit of a soft spot for France, that’s a shame you’re unable to get there this year.
We are lucky that we only live 40 minutes from Le Shuttle and the crossing is only 35, plus we do love a road trip.