Planning a trip to France and want to explore the country beyond the famous attractions? Keep scrolling for my list of the best hidden gems in France worth adding to your itinerary!
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When planning a trip to France, world-famous landmarks are the first to be included in most itineraries.
After all, France is the most visited country in the world. The Eiffel Tower, Arc du Triomphe, and the Louvre Museum take a lot of credit for attracting many of the 85 million tourists that land in La Belle France every year.
Paris, the Alps, and Brittany get a good share of those tourists. Which is completely understandable considering how strikingly gorgeous they are!
With that said, because there’s so much hype to explore famous French destinations and attractions, it can sometimes get to be crowded and a bit overwhelming.
If you are aiming to discover France sans the crowds or you simply want to craft an itinerary that includes the highlights as well as secret spots that don’t make it to most guides, you’ve come to the right place.
France is home to a number of hidden gems that are still not on most travelers’ radars. These include picturesque hamlets, striking flower fields, small oceanside villages, and other natural treasures.
You can enjoy more laid-back vacation or take a break from the hustle and bustle of the more crowded attractions.
If you’re ready to explore the off-the-beaten-path side of France, which includes a few UNESCO World Heritage sites, here is a list of some fantastic hidden gems in France you’ve got to include on your itinerary.
Hidden Gems in France
1. Conques in Southern France
Tucked away in the middle of a forest, Conques is a charming little village located in the Occitanie region in Sothern France.
Just to give you an idea of how pretty it is, Conques was the inspiration for the opening scene of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast!
Being here will make you feel as though you stepped into a real-life fairytale town by simply walking its streets and alleys.
Winding narrow cobblestoned streets, quaint little cottages complete with charming rustic doors and window sills, and the enormous abbey church St. Froy make up this medieval village that is as picturesque as it gets.
Needless to say, almost everything is uber Instagrammable. This includes the inside of its many quaint shops and crepe diners, making it a photographer’s dream come true!
2. Promenade Plantee (Paris)
You don’t need to venture outside of Paris to get off-the-beaten-path. Even if you’re short on time, you should still be able to fit in a few hidden gems in France if you’re visiting the capital.
The City of Lights has its very own hidden gems for you to discover if you’re in town and wish to escape the tourist crowds for a few hours.
One of them is the Promenade Plantee, also known as the Coulée Verte René-Dumont. It’s a 3-mile-long elevated park that was built on an unused railway line in 1993.
The promenade is a fantastic mix of modern architecture and landscaping with areas of wild vegetation that begins behind the Bastille opera house and runs to the Daumesnil Doree, where the shopping area is located.
Surprisingly, most tourists and even many Parisians are not aware of its existence. So it is an excellent spot to explore when you need to take a breather from it all.
You won’t only get the chance to see rosebushes, hazelnut, and lime trees that make up the Promenade Plantee, but you’ll also be rewarded with excellent views of the city.
As a fun fact, Coulée Verte René-Dumont was the inspiration behind the Highline in New York City.
The town of Provence is not too hidden anymore, especially because its striking lavender fields have become quite famous on Instagram in recent years.
What might come as a surprise is that lavender season is not the only harvest here. This opens up a few possibilities for visiting the area during the rest of the year without having to deal with large crowds.
Other amazing harvest seasons in Province include saffron, truffles, chestnuts, and blackcurrant. Each one offering unique attractions, products on sale, and photo-ops throughout the year.
4. Cote D’Argent
If you dream of exploring gorgeous sandy beaches in France but are not too jazzed about dealing with swarms of people, Cote D’Argent is for you.
This 143-mile stretch of pristine beach is backdropped by sand dunes. These are lined by shrubs that mark the beginning of thousands of acres of forested landscape. History buffs will be interested to know that this forest was planted by Napoleon III for his navy!
Cote D’Argent begins in Soulac-Sur-Mer, and ends in Hossegor with small towns or isolated houses dotting the sand in between. If walking for miles without meeting a soul is what you’re aiming for, head to this almost unspoiled coastline, which is a true hidden gem in France.
Saint-Girons Plage is a good base for exploring the whole area. It offers equipment rental and tours for kite-sailing, surfing, body-boarding, boating, and plenty of other water sports.
If biking is your thing, you’ll be more than happy riding La Velodyssée, a fabulous 750- mile cycle route along the French Atlantic coast.
Even though it is pretty famous because it is the town where Vincent Van Gogh found a lot of inspiration before putting an end to his life, Auvers-Sur-Oise is pretty much underrated as a tourist destination.
This lovely French village sits on the banks of the Oise River and is surrounded by splendid wheat fields. Van Gogh spent the last 70 days of his life creating 70 works of art in 70 days in the quintessential French village, located about an hour by train from Paris.
Whether you are a Van Gogh fan or not, it is a must-see hidden gem in France that has somehow managed to preserve its charm over the years.
A short train ride on the ‘train des impressionistes,’ from Gare du Nord station will take you away from the hustle and bustle of Paris to the town the painter described as “gravely beautiful” to his brother Theo.
Once there, be prepared to immerse yourself in the French impressionist era. Van Gogh was not the only master to spend some time here.
Highlights include Château d’Auvers, Charles-François Daubigny’s old house and workshop, and the museum that bears his name.
The church of Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption, which was immortalized by Vincent van Gogh in one of his paintings is another must-see. There’s also the Absinthe Museum, and the artist’s final resting place.
Lille is a former industrial powerhouse in northern France and the country’s fourth-largest city.
Besides being a stunning cultural center filled with history and striking architecture, Lille can be a less costly – and touristy – alternative to Paris.
It is conveniently located 160 miles from Paris, 69 miles from Brussels, and 182 from London. This makes it a superb hub for exploring other famous European cities on day trips.
With so much to offer, it is probably one of the most underrated cities in Europe. It’s a great off-the-beaten-path destination which in turn is full of hidden gems in France.
Lille has something for every type of traveler. The entire city is full of impressive architecture and unique buildings, including the Cathedral of Notre Dame de la Treille and the Piscine Museum.
Art aficionados will love the Palace of Fine Arts. It features a nice collection of the works of Picasso, Monet, Rodin, and other world-renowned artists.
Citadelle park is popular among nature lovers and history buffs. It was built in the 17th century after Louis XIV asked Vauban to build the citadel for protection, with the park stretching around it.
When you’re done sightseeing for the day, Grand Place (Grand Square) is perfect for relaxing and dining.
7. Gorge du Verdon (Provence)
Gorge du Verdon is one of the most beautiful canyons in the world. It’s also the second largest in Europe, measuring 15.5 miles long and over half a mile in depth.
What makes it so unique is the unbelievable tone of the turquoise-green water. The views of the river from the mountain cliffs are mind-blowing. This makes it one of the most beautiful hidden gems in France.
You can make a day outing to the gorge while visiting the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of southern France.
Or stay a few days in the nearby towns of Castellane and Moustiers-Sainte-Marie if you want to explore as much as possible.
The gorge was formed by the force of the Verdon River, which today flows into a man-made lake, Lac de Sainte-Croix. Best of all, the area is so vast that there are different ways to explore it.
If you’re yearning for some water sports, swimming, kayaking, and boating are available at the Lac de Sainte-Croix. If you want to explore the dry side, you can go camping, hiking, and driving in the Gorges du Verdon Natural Regional Park, which will take you deeper into the gorge.
Unique Places to Visit in France Wrap Up
Which are your favorite hidden gems in France? If you have any other recommendations for places to visit that aren’t as popular, please feel free to drop the in the comment section below.