Are you planning a scenic road trip in France?15 destinations to tempt those travelling tastebuds
Gary and I can’t wait to pack up the car and venture over to France again. It has been sooo long since we last felt the Provencal sunshine on our faces or listened to the calming sound of waves whooshing in along the Mediterranean coastline.
We live in the southeast of the UK, so, any opportunity that we can get, we love to head across the English Channel and explore the delights of another region of France. Either by jumping on Le Shuttle and vanishing beneath the sea or leisurely cruising with Brittany Ferries on the open waves.
Hence with all our touring of France, whether it’s north, south, east, or west, we have stumbled upon so many charming towns and villages en-route. No sooner are we working our way through our French ‘bucket list’ than we are adding more incredible locations to it.
There may be some places here that you are familiar with. Still, hopefully, there are a few that will tempt you into venturing further afield in France to those lesser-known hidden villages.
Our List of 15 Destinations
When you think of the rolling hills of Alsace in France, I imagine Molsheim may not be the town that first springs to mind; however, it truly is one to explore.
Molsheim is located at the northern end of the Alsace wine route, in France's north-eastern Grand Est region. It’s such a verdant and beautiful part of the country.
Molsheim’s old town square is full of character; immediately, your eyes are drawn to the Renaissance La Metzig building. La Metzig was constructed in 1525 and was originally built as a butcher’s shop. It is so attractive with its ornate gables and double-fronted staircase.
Strolling around the peaceful streets of Molsheim, you’ll discover typical Alsatian architecture. Lanes lined with timber-framed homes and the medieval Porte des Forgerons (Blacksmiths Tower), which was once part of the ancient city walls.
Although, what you may not have expected to come across in Molsheim, is a Bugatti museum. When Ettore Bugatti set up his automobile company in 1909, Molsheim was part of Germany, a country renowned for its car industry. Molsheim has switched back and forth from France to Germany three times since then.
During our time in Molshiem, we stayed at the Diana Hôtel, just a few minutes walk from the old town square. It offered ample parking, it also has electrical charging points too!. The room was spacious & well equipped, the staff were friendly, and the breakfast was superb.
So, if you’re planning an Alsace road trip, ensure to include Molsheim en-route.
We have created a little YouTube video of Molsheim.
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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.
We’re now journeying south to Cannes in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region of France. Ooh la la, we’ve reached the French Riviera, its sun, sea, and sand all the way.
There’s no question about it; yes, it has to be done, promenading the Boulevard de la Croisette in Cannes. With the warmth of the evening sun, palm trees swaying in a gentle breeze and golden sandy beaches as far as the eye can see. And of course, rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous.
However, Cannes is not all about the film festival and luxury hotels, it has some fascinating history and architecture too.
You must stroll amongst the medieval cobbled lanes of Le Suquet, the old quarter of Cannes.
In Le Suquet you’ll discover the Musée de la Castre and the hilltop 15th-century church of Notre-Dame d'Espérance, with its Romanesque bell tower. I know it’s a bit of a climb, but you’ll be rewarded with incredible views across the Bay of Cannes when you reach the top.
Cannes is perfect for a weekend away in the south of France.
If you love Provence as much as we do, you'll want to start planning your visit now.
I so enjoy using the DK Eyewitness books, as they are 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 Provencal road trip, now you can grab the revised copy.
Montluçon is a delightful French town in the heart of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, the old province of Bourbonnais. It is nestled on the banks of the Cher River.
Amongst the historical medieval lanes of Montluçon are timber-framed homes, ancient churches, and the most striking of them all is the Castle of the Dukes of Bourbon.
The imposing castle, which stands high above Montluçon, can be enjoyed from many viewpoints around the town; however, a jaunt to the top is recommended to truly appreciate it.
The fortress was built in 1070, with further construction from 1370 during the Hundred Years’ War. The clock tower and the charming Italian-style gallery opens out onto the broad courtyard below.
Explore Montluçon’s many squares and historical monuments dotted through the narrow streets of the old town.
To fully appreciate the town of Montluçon, we suggest you stay for the evening. The CHARMES EN VILLE Le Charme Atypique is located in the centre of town, offers a generous breakfast and stylishly decorated rooms.
Whatever Venasque lacks in stature, it certainly makes up for in charm and character. The beautiful hilltop village in Vaucluse basks in the silhouette of Mont Ventoux.
Venasque is located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region of France an incredibly scenic part of the country. With olive groves unfolding across the sun-kissed landscape and Cypress trees piercing through the skyline, you know you are in Provence.
The peaceful medieval village of Venasque is perched high on a steep cliff. It appears to have hidden away from the visiting crowds.
Strolling through the tiny streets amongst the traditional stone houses, with their pastel-coloured shutters thrown open to the French sunshine, gives you a pleasing feeling inside.
It’s delightful stumbling across villages like this; you almost lower your voices to a whisper so as not to wake the snoozing cat or disturb the locals going about their daily chores.
While in Venasque, visit the 13th-century Romanesque baptistery of Venasque, one of the oldest religious sites in France. Take a wander around the ramparts and Roman towers, and if you are in the vicinity in June, enjoy the annual Cherry Festival.
During our Provencal road trip we based ourselves in the picturesque town of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, we stayed at Hotel Gounod, it’s a wonderful hotel, fantastic service and very friendly staff. However, they can get booked up quickly so, an alternative that we considered is the delightful Hôtel Sous les Figuiers. Just a short walk from the centre of town, with parking available, this is certainly one for our next visit.
If you love Provence
Our little secret, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France
Alençon may be a little off the tourist trail; nonetheless, it certainly has its own historical story to tell.
Le Château des Ducs has many tales hidden within its walls, from the invasion of William the Conqueror to the Gestapo during WWII.
Throughout the picturesque town are half-timbered houses, charming squares and courtyards and the striking Basilica of Notre-Dame in the centre of the old town.
Alençon managed to survive WWII relatively unscathed, so it has some wonderful architecture dotted through its streets.
During the 16th-century, lacemaking became a prominent local industry, and Alençon lace was worn by the French Royalty.
Lacemaking continued on a small scale by Carmelite nuns to ensure the technique survived, and a workshop has been set up in the town.
Alençon was also the first town to be liberated by the French Army under General Leclerc.
Our accommodation for the two nights in Alençon was at the ibis Alençon, it been a while since we stayed in an Ibis, but not for any particular reason. As you may expect the facilities were reasonably basic, but the staff and the location were fantastic.
We love visiting France and each region so different from one another. I find the DK Eyewitness Guides really helpful in planning a trip and so often find interesting little snippets of info.
Take a peek at this revised Top 10 Pocket Travel Guide and see what you can discover.
Châlons-en-Champagne is located in the Grand Est region of France; this particular area is famed for its terroir. Yes, within this area, you’ll discover row upon row of manicured vines that the Champagne houses are nurturing for our taste buds.
Châlons-en-Champagne was previously known as Châlons-sur-Marne and formerly changed its name in 1998. It’s an ideal location to base yourself for a Champagne road trip amongst the rolling vineyards.
This small city is home to the magnificent Saint Etienne Cathedral, consecrated in 1147 by Pope Eugene III.
Châlons-en-Champagne sits on the River Marne, and the waterways and canals weave their way amongst the historic streets. Hop-on, one of the charming boats rides and enjoy the city from a different perspective at a relaxed and leisurely pace.
On the banks of the Canal Saint-Martin sits another incredible church, the Notre-Dame-en-Vaux; the Gothic and Romanesque collegiate church was built between 1157 and 1217.
Our accommodation while staying in Châlons-en-Champagne was at Hotel L’Angleterre, located very central and easy walking distance of the town. Additionally, it had on-site parking at no extra cost.
If like us, you love visiting different regions of France then this Michelin guide will definitely assist in your planning.
We used a previous version of this book to plan our eastern France road trips, now you can grab the revised copy.
The town Collioure is on the far south-eastern tip of France, a stone throws away, and you would be indulging in the delights of paella in northern Spain.
Collioure is located in the Occitanie region on the shoreline of the Mediterranean Sea and forms part of the Côte Vermeille (Vermillion Coast). This beautiful section of coastline stretches 20km from Argelès-sur-Mer to the border village of Cerbère.
The small rocky bays, hidden coves and welcoming beaches have been an inspiration for many French artists, including Matisse, Derain and Picasso.
Collioure truly is a picture-postcard, with the ancient castle Château Royal de Collioure stretching out into the bay. I would have loved to have spent longer in Collioure, promenading along the water’s edge, watching the boats bobbing up and down in the harbour and basking in the Mediterranean sunshine.
The narrow streets and lanes in Collioure’s attractive old town are awash with colourful buildings, welcoming restaurants and tiny boutiques and cafés.
For accommodation with beautiful views, stay at Le Relais Des Trois Mas. It is in an incredible location overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and the old harbour beyond. Just a few steps down to the waters edge and a short stroll into the old town, what could be better?
Ahh, yes, we’re back in the Normandy region of France again, this time to the incredibly picturesque and colourful town of Beuvron-en-Auge.
If you adore historic timber-framed buildings, overflowing vibrant widow boxes and the tempting taste of Calvados, then you’ll love Beuvron-en-Auge.
Located in the lush Normandy countryside along the “Route du Cidre”, this charming town is not to be missed. Beuvron-en-Auge can boast of being one of “Les Plus Beaux Villages de France” ("the most beautiful villages of France"), and it is easy to see why.
In the centre of the old town is the historic covered market, today it is selling local gifts and antiques. However, you could just imagine years ago that this market would have been the hub of daily life with locals selling their fresh produce.
Entirely encircling the ancient square are so many lovingly preserved half-timbered homes, cafés and shops.
Oh, yes, don’t forget to pick up a bottle of the local cider.
During our Normandy road trip adventure we based ourselves in Caen at the Hotel Restaurant Le Dauphin et Le Spa du Prieuré. The 4 star hotel is in an extremely good location in the centre of town and a short hop to the castle.
Don’t miss parts I, II and III of our adventures in France
Now we’ve arrived in the south-west of France at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region.
You may recognise the name of this charming historic town, as it is the starting point for the French Way of the Camino de Santiago.
I must be honest with you, I haven’t walked the Camino de Santiago; however, I am in awe of anyone that has; it looks incredible. I just struggle to comprehend walking the 800km (500 miles). But hey, never say never.
The medieval town of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port is very attractive. Take a stroll up to the Citadelle entrance to enjoy the magnificent view across the Basque countryside and Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port below.
The delightful, cobbled street of Rue de la Citadelle runs down through the ancient town, passing under the Porte St-Jacques to the Porte Notre-Dame and across the Old bridge over the river Nive.
The view from the Old Bridge is lovely; pink sandstone buildings line the river and haven’t lost their rustic French charm.
Share with us your experiences of the Camino de Santiago.
Stay overnight at the Hôtel des Pyrénées, a former coaching inn located just a few steps from the centre of the historic village of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. This comfortable 4-star hotel has a relaxing outdoor swimming pool and also offers onsite parking.
I love the Alsace region of France; not only do you get to experience the culinary delights of France, but you also get to enjoy the German influences too.
Kaysersberg is in the Grand Est north-eastern region and a beautifully verdant part of France. The historical town is picture-postcard with its pastel-coloured timber-framed homes lining all the cobble-stoned streets and the cascading River Weiss flowing through the centre.
When you stroll through the ancient town, it is so perfectly maintained that you truly feel like you have stepped on to a movie set. Window boxes overflowing with blossom and enticing aromas wafting from brightly decorated shutters of cafés and restaurants.
This all before you get a chance to sample the delightful local Alsatian wine. Kaysersberg forms part of the Alsace wine route (Route des Vins d'Alsace) and is conveniently located about midway between Marlenheim in the north and Thann in the south.
Therefore, making Kaysersberg an ideal base for your road trip amongst the patchwork of rolling vineyards and picturesque towns and villages en-route.
I can envisage Gary and I returning to Alsace soon; I can’t wait. For a little more information on Kaysersberg, take a browse through the Visit Alsace website.
During our visit to the Alsace region we based ourselves in Colmar and stayed at the Le Colombier. This stylish hotel was perfectly located in the Little Venice district of Colmar. Just a couple of minutes walk into the historical old town.
In our opinion
The picturesque Burgundy village of Flavigny-sur-Ozerain was such a delight to visit. Sitting high on a rocky spur, Flavigny-sur-Ozerain is surrounded by three streams, the Recluse, the Ozerain, and the Verpant.
There’s a great pleasure in getting lost in the tiny narrow streets of a medieval village like Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, you really don’t want to be found.
Peaceful lanes are leading from one charming square or courtyard to another. Lavender blue shutters closed to keep the heat of the midday sun at bay and fragrant roses clambering over doorways. It certainly doesn’t surprise me that Flavigny-sur-Ozerain was awarded the honour of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France” ("the most beautiful villages of France").
Within the ancient walls, ramparts and stone town gates is the Flavigny Abbey famed for its sweet treats, Anise de Flavigny. The recipe for this natural product has remained unchanged since the 16th- century and can still be purchased in the nostalgic oval tins
All this talk about confectionary reminds me that you may recognise Flavigny-sur-Ozerain from a movie. And that’s the film Chocolat based on the novel by Joanne Harris, starring Juliette Binoche, Johnny Depp and Dame Judi Dench. Many of the scenes were filmed through these delightful streets, including the tantalising Chocolaterie.
We visited Flavigny-sur-Ozerain while we were staying in the beautiful Burgundy town of Beaune. For a little bit of indulgence, why not stop overnight at the luxury Hostellerie Cèdre & Spa Beaune and treat yourself. Onsite parking is available.
The region of Centre-Val de Loire is an area of France that we’ve yet to explore in greater depth. Although after discovering Loches for a couple days, I’m hoping that will change in the not-too-distant future.
Loches is an extremely picturesque town in the heart of France, with charming cobbled-stoned streets, quaint lanes lined with wrought-iron balconies, and brasseries and boutiques welcoming you in.
Not only are the streets full of character, but the history in Loches is fascinating too. Stroll through the ancient gates of Porte des Cordeliers or the Porte Royale in this once fortified town and head up to Château de Loches.
The castle was built during the 9th-century and has an imposing Keep that dominates the skyline of Loches. It has had a mixture of residence over the years. During the 12th-century, the British managed to occupy it for a while when Henry II and his son Richard the Lionheart took hold.
During the reign of Charles VII of France in the 15th-century, it became his favourite residence and gifted it to his mistress Agnès Sorel.
Loches Castle is open to visitors, and as you venture up higher and the higher to the Keep, the views across Loches rooftops and beyond are magnificent.
Stay for a couple of nights in Loches at the Best Western Plus Hotel de la Cite Royale. Newly opened in the old Palais de Justice this hotel is just a few steps from the old town and has parking directly opposite.
We now journey on to the beautiful region of Brittany and, more precisely, to the walled city of Saint-Malo.
Saint-Malo is a delightful place to visit and not just for its abundance of seafood, although that is a good enough reason for me. The history and character of Saint-Malo are fascinating; I could spend days wandering the charming streets and ramparts.
Saint-Malo has an intriguing past; it became notorious for corsairs, pirates, ne’re-do-wells, and a bit of daylight robbery. Particularly showing no mercy for the English ships passing through The Channel. Hopefully, that’s all behind us now.
During World War II, Saint-Malo suffered devastating bombardment and was almost destroyed. Thankfully the picturesque town was lovingly rebuilt from 1948 to 1960 and is an absolute pleasure to visit.
Today you can amble through the colourful narrow streets, climb the city walls, enjoy al-fresco dining, and just soak up the whole French nautical vibes.
Just off the bay of Saint-Malo Old Town are two tiny tidal islands, Ile du Grand Bé and Petit Bé. These intriguing islands can only be accessed on foot, so remember that you don’t want to get left stranded as they are tidal.
If you would like to find out more about visiting Saint-Malo for a perfect mini-break, visit the Brittany Tourism website.
If you want to stay in the heart of the old town in Saint-Malo head to ibis Styles Saint Malo Centre Historique. It has wonderful views across the city walls and is just a few steps to some delightful restaurants and cafés.
If like us, you love visiting different regions of France then this Michelin guide will definitely assist in your planning.
We used a previous version of this book to plan our France road trips around Brittany, now you can grab the revised copy.
Start creating your own French adventure and discover the enchanting French countryside for yourself. Search for your flights in one easy place with ebookers.com. Over 400 airlines are scanned for your favoured routes and chosen dates.
Or alternatively, catch a Brittany Ferry and tour through France under your own steam.
Rocamadour is in the Occitanie region of southwest France and has the lush, picturesque River Dordogne at its feet.
The ancient buildings cling to the rock face as they creep up and up above the verdant gorge and peer down into the valley below.
The Medieval commune has been welcoming pilgrims for centuries to its monastic buildings and sanctuaries. Through the charming streets, the vertical village can be accessed only on foot as it weaves amongst the golden stone house.
Exploring the tiny lanes of Rocamadour, you’ll discover four arched stone gates: Porte Basse, Porte du Figuier, Porte Salmon and Porte Hugon.
It’s a delight wandering in the ancient footsteps of predecessors; however, the view that you witness from the valley beneath is magnificent.
To truly enjoy Rocamadour and the beautiful Dordogne Valley region stay at Hôtel Les Esclargies. Located in peaceful surroundings and within easy reach of the historic hilltop town.
Have you seen?
12 UNESCO Sites to visit in France
We’re staying within the Occitanie region of France. However, heading over to the southeast corner of the country to the historic town of Narbonne.
With Narbonne only 9 miles (15km) from the Mediterranean Sea and the Canal de la Robine weaving through its streets, you get a true feel that the sunshine coast is not too far away.
The ancient town of Narbonne has history around every corner; all through the Old Town are eye-catching monuments, welcoming squares and stunning architecture.
In the heart of Narbonne is the 13th-century gothic Narbonne Cathedral, which was ground-breaking in 1272. The unusual aspect of the cathedral is that it is noted to be unfinished.
It’s such a pleasure promenading beside the banks of the Canal de la Robine, watching the boats sailing by, wondering which wonderful location they are heading for.
Although, one of my favourite places that we visited was Les Halles, the bustling local, covered market. Row upon row of fresh produce piled high, vibrant towering cones of rich, colourful spices and freshly caught seafood.
To discover all there is to love about Narbonne, stay for a few nights at Hôtel La Résidence. Centrally located, close to all the historical sites and just a few steps to the charming, picturesque canal.
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