12 Best Hidden Gems in France to Visit

by Flora Backup
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Are you looking for the best hidden gems in France? Here are 12 of France’s most underrated places that you need to know about.

Ahh France! Land of romance, art, and world-famous cuisine. When one thinks of this enchanting country, images of the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and the bustling streets of Paris often come to mind. These iconic landmarks have drawn millions of visitors, each eager to capture a piece of the French magic.

Yet, beyond these well-trodden paths, France hides a myriad of secret spots waiting to be discovered. Picture this: wandering through medieval villages where time seems to have stood still, uncovering secluded beaches along the azure coastline, or indulging in authentic French delicacies in a rustic countryside bistro, away from the tourist crowds.

These lesser-known destinations offer experiences that are both unique and transformative. They allow travelers to immerse themselves in the true essence of France, far from the commercialized attractions. And in this article, we’re not just unveiling these hidden gems; we’re also packing it with insider travel tips to ensure you get the most out of every destination. From local eateries to the best times to visit, we’ve got you covered.

So, if you’ve ever wondered where to go in France that offers a genuine and unfiltered experience, you’re in for a treat. We’re about to embark on an unforgettable journey off the beaten path in France, showcasing destinations that promise adventure, wonder, and memories that will last a lifetime. Here are 12 of the best hidden gems in France that you should know about.

The best hidden gems in France right now
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Hidden Gems in France: 12 Secret Places in France

Keen to discover the best hidden gems in France? As noted earlier, France is brimming with off-the-beaten-path destinations that suit all kinds of travelers. Delve further to uncover some of France’s most underrated places.

Are you looking for tranquil mountain retreats? Or would you prefer secluded coastal paradises? Whatever you’re planning, France can accommodate your needs. Dive into this guide to discover the best hidden gems in France.

1. Saint-Cirq-Lapopie

High above the Lot River, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is a treasure often overshadowed by France’s more renowned destinations. Its historic charm and architectural beauty remain a well-kept secret, waiting for discerning travelers to discover. Cobblestone streets, timber-framed houses, and ancient fortifications paint a vivid picture of France’s rich heritage. Without a doubt, it’s one of the most underrated places in France.

The views from Saint-Cirq-Lapopie are truly captivating. Overlooking the winding Lot River, surrounded by lush greenery and dramatic cliffs, it’s easy to see why this village has been a muse for artists and writers for generations.

Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is a top choice, where each moment feels extraordinary, providing an authentic experience of French charm.
Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is a top choice, where each moment feels extraordinary, providing an authentic experience of French charm.

Beyond its scenic allure, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is also a hub of culture and history. Artisan shops, significant landmarks, and delightful eateries serving local delicacies invite visitors to immerse themselves in an authentic French experience. For a truly immersive experience, consider staying at one of the local guesthouses. This not only supports the local community but also gives you a chance to enjoy the village’s charm long after day visitors have left.

For those seeking beautiful destinations in France that meld history with natural beauty and remain relatively undiscovered, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is a top pick. It’s a place where every moment feels special, offering a genuine taste of French charm.

2. Conques

One of the most beautiful villages in France, Conques is a gem that many travelers inadvertently miss. This medieval village, with its narrow alleys and stone-built houses, offers a genuine escape from the modern world. This makes it one of the coolest places to go in France.

Conques is renowned for its stunning abbey, which houses the relics of Sainte Foy. The abbey’s intricate stained-glass windows and detailed carvings showcase the exceptional craftsmanship of past centuries. Yet, despite its historical significance, Conques remains refreshingly free from the crowds of tourists that flock to other destinations.

Conques stands out as a beautiful, off-the-beaten-path destination in France, perfect for adventurers seeking untouristed treasures.
Conques stands out as a beautiful, off-the-beaten-path destination in France, perfect for adventurers seeking untouristed treasures.

The village’s serene ambiance is complemented by the surrounding lush landscapes, offering ample opportunities for nature walks and quiet contemplation. For foodies, local eateries often serve dishes made from regional produce. Don’t miss out on trying the traditional Aveyron delicacies when you visit.

For adventurers eager to uncover beautiful places to visit in France that remain untouched by mass tourism, Conques stands out. It’s an enchanting destination where visitors can connect deeply with authentic French culture and history.

3. Cancale

Situated on the Emerald Coast of Brittany, Cancale is a haven for seafood enthusiasts and those seeking a coastal retreat away from the crowds. With its picturesque harbor, lined with traditional fishing boats, Cancale exudes a charm that’s hard to resist. Hands down, it’s one of the most unique places to visit in France.

Renowned for its oysters, Cancale offers a culinary experience like no other. The town’s oyster beds have been celebrated for centuries, and a visit isn’t complete without sampling these briny delicacies straight from the sea. The waterfront has stalls where you can enjoy fresh oysters, paired with a glass of crisp white wine.

Cancale provides a refreshing retreat for travelers eager to discover hidden gems in France.
Cancale provides a refreshing retreat for travelers eager to discover hidden gems in France.

For an unforgettable view, take a stroll to Pointe du Grouin, the town’s headland. Here, you’ll love the panoramic vistas of Mont Saint-Michel Bay, especially stunning during sunset.

Cancale offers a refreshing escape for travelers keen on exploring hidden gems in France. Far from the bustling tourist hubs, this coastal town provides a genuine taste of Brittany’s maritime heritage, inviting visitors to immerse themselves in its tranquil ambiance and rich culinary traditions.

4. Bonnieux

In the heart of Provence’s Luberon region, Bonnieux rises majestically, offering breathtaking vistas of vineyards, lavender fields, and ancient cedar forests. Unlike the more frequented Provençal towns, Bonnieux remains a serene escape, a prime spot for those seeking underrated destinations in France.

The sight of sprawling lavender fields, with their vibrant purple hues and rich scent, is emblematic of Provence. Bonnieux, being in the Luberon, is perfectly positioned for those wanting to immerse themselves in this aromatic experience. The best time to witness the lavender in full bloom is from late June to early August when the fields become a sea of purple. At this time, visitors will see a picturesque backdrop that’s a dream for photographers and nature lovers alike.

Bonnieux offers a delightful fusion of natural beauty and Provençal culture, ensuring a memorable French escape.
Bonnieux offers a delightful fusion of natural beauty and Provençal culture, ensuring a memorable French escape.

In the town itself, winding streets lead to historic sites like the 12th-century church and the remnants of ancient ramparts. The village is also home to terraced gardens, which provide a peaceful spot to relax and soak in the surroundings. Consider visiting the local market on Fridays. It’s a vibrant affair where you can sample regional produce, from fragrant cheeses to freshly baked bread.

Bonnieux stands as a delightful blend of natural beauty and Provençal culture, promising a memorable French getaway. It’s one of France’s best hidden gems which I recommend to all travelers.

5. Étretat

On the Alabaster Coast of Normandy, Étretat unveils its dramatic white cliffs and natural stone arches, sculpted by the relentless waves of the English Channel. This coastal town, though lesser-known to the international crowd, is a favorite among artists and writers, including the likes of Claude Monet and Guy de Maupassant, who drew inspiration from its stunning landscapes.

The cliffs of Étretat, with their unique formations like the Needle and the Elephant, are a sight to behold. Make sure to visit during sunset when the play of light creates mesmerizing hues on the rocks. The pebbled beach below offers a perfect vantage point to admire these natural wonders.

The cliffs of Étretat, boasting distinctive formations such as the Needle and the Elephant, are a breathtaking spectacle.
The cliffs of Étretat, boasting distinctive formations such as the Needle and the Elephant, are a breathtaking spectacle.

For an unparalleled view, hike up to the Chapel of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde. This vantage point provides a panoramic perspective of the cliffs and the town below.

If you’re searching for underrated French destinations that combine natural splendor with rich artistic heritage, Étretat is a destination that beckons. It’s an invitation to experience the raw beauty of nature, interspersed with tales of creative legends.

6. Sarlat-la-Canéda

Deep in the Dordogne Valley lies Sarlat-la-Canéda, a town that seems frozen in time. Its medieval streets, golden limestone buildings, and bustling marketplaces transport visitors to an era long past, positioning it as one of the secret spots in France that history lovers cherish.

Sarlat-la-Canéda boasts a rich architectural heritage, with landmarks like the Saint-Sacerdos Cathedral and the Lanterne des Morts reflecting its storied past. The town comes alive on market days when locals and visitors alike gather to sample regional specialties, from truffles to foie gras.

Sarlat-la-Canéda harmoniously fuses history, gastronomy, and culture in a picturesque and serene ambiance.
Sarlat-la-Canéda harmoniously fuses history, gastronomy, and culture in a picturesque and serene ambiance.

If possible, plan your visit during the Sarlat Film Festival in November. It’s a unique opportunity to experience the town’s vibrant cultural scene, with film screenings and events set against its historic backdrop.

Those keen to explore France off the beaten path will find in Sarlat-la-Canéda a harmonious blend of history, gastronomy, and culture in a setting that’s both picturesque and peaceful.

7. Collioure

Nestled between the Mediterranean Sea and the Pyrenees mountains, Collioure is a vibrant splash of colors, a place where azure waters meet terracotta rooftops. Located in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, this coastal village remains one of the best hidden gems in France, often overlooked in favor of its more famous neighbors.

Collioure’s allure lies in its simplicity. Narrow lanes wind through the town, leading to sun-drenched squares and quiet beaches. The Royal Castle and the Church of Notre-Dame-des-Anges, with its iconic bell tower, dominate the skyline and showcase the town’s storied past.

Travelers seeking France's distinctive destinations, merging history, art, and coastal tranquility, will be entranced by Collioure.
Travelers seeking France’s distinctive destinations, merging history, art, and coastal tranquility, will love Collioure.

Don’t miss out on the local anchovies. Collioure has a long-standing tradition of anchovy fishing, and local eateries serve them in a variety of delicious preparations. On a summer’s day, consider taking a boat tour. It offers a unique perspective of the town and its stunning natural surroundings.

Travelers eager to discover unique places to visit in France that offer history, art, and seaside relaxation will find Collioure captivating. It’s a destination where every sunset creates a visual spectacle, accompanied by the soothing sounds of the sea.

8. Uzès

Located in the Gard department of southern France, Uzès is a town that exudes medieval charm. With its well-preserved architecture and historic monuments, it’s a place that feels like a step back in time. As such, it’s one of the most underrated places in France worth exploring.

The town’s centerpiece is the Place aux Herbes, a lively square surrounded by arcades and filled with bustling market stalls. Here, visitors can immerse themselves in a vibrant display of fresh produce and artisan crafts, reflecting the region’s culture.

Uzès is a hidden gem in France that is melding history, culture, and beauty for discerning explorers.
Uzès is a hidden gem in France that is melding history, culture, and beauty for discerning explorers.

The Duchy’s Castle, with its distinct towers, provides panoramic views of the town and the surrounding countryside. Nearby, the Romanesque-style Saint-Théodorit cathedral and its Fenestrelle Tower stand as iconic landmarks.

A short drive from Uzès will take you to the Pont du Gard, an ancient Roman aqueduct bridge. This UNESCO World Heritage site showcases the impressive engineering skills of the Romans.

Visitors keen on discovering hidden gems in France that blend history, culture, and scenic beauty will appreciate the allure of Uzès. It’s a destination where tradition intertwines with modernity, giving visitors a genuine taste of southern France.

9. Saint-Véran

Perched at an altitude of over 2,000 meters, Saint-Véran claims the title of one of the highest inhabited villages in Europe. Nestled in the Queyras National Park in the Hautes-Alpes, this village is a paradise for those seeking solitude amidst towering peaks and pristine alpine meadows. It’s one of the hidden gems in France that remains largely undiscovered by the typical tourist crowd.

Traditional wooden chalets dot the landscape, their sun-bleached facades telling tales of centuries gone by. The clear mountain air, combined with the village’s remote location, makes it a prime spot for stargazing. In fact, the nearby Observatoire Astronomique de Saint-Véran is a testament to the area’s exceptional night skies.

For those seeking France's less-traveled gems, Saint-Véran is a hidden treasure waiting to be uncovered.
For those seeking France’s less-traveled gems, Saint-Véran is a hidden treasure.

There are fun things to do in Saint-Véran throughout the year. If you’re visiting in winter, the surrounding slopes offer excellent opportunities for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. During the warmer months, the region boasts numerous hiking trails, ranging from leisurely walks to challenging mountain treks.

If you’re eager to explore beautiful destinations in France away from the mainstream, Saint-Véran is a treasure waiting to be discovered. With fun-filled activities available throughout the year, it’s a spot that deserves a place on any France itinerary.

10. Cap Ferrat

On the cusp of the Atlantic Ocean and the Arcachon Bay, Cap Ferret is a slender peninsula that offers a refreshing escape from the bustling French Riviera. With its mix of wild oceanic beaches and tranquil bay shores, Cap Ferret is a dream destination for beach lovers searching for underrated French destinations.

The ocean side of the peninsula boasts vast stretches of sandy beaches, where the waves crash with vigor, making it a favorite spot for surfers and those looking to embrace the raw power of the Atlantic. On the bay side, the waters are calmer, ideal for families and those seeking a serene beach experience.

Cap Ferret is a coastal haven, guided by the sea's rhythms, offering a truly rejuvenating getaway.
Cap Ferret is a coastal haven, guided by the sea’s rhythms, offering a truly rejuvenating getaway.

Visit the Cap Ferret Lighthouse for panoramic views of the peninsula, the bay, and the distant Dune of Pilat. Additionally, indulge in the region’s famous oysters. Numerous oyster huts dot the bay side, offering fresh catches paired with local wines.

Cap Ferret is a coastal haven where the rhythms of the sea dictate the pace of life, ensuring a truly rejuvenating getaway. Get ready to discover some of the best beaches in France!

11. Cassis

Tucked between the bustling city of Marseille and the expansive Calanques National Park, Cassis is a picturesque port town that often goes unnoticed by the typical tourist trail. Its azure waters, sheltered inlets, and limestone cliffs present a Mediterranean paradise that whispers of hidden gems in France.

The town’s harbor is lined with colorful buildings, reflecting a rich maritime heritage. From here, boat tours embark to explore the nearby Calanques, a series of dramatic rocky inlets that are best accessed by sea. These natural wonders, with their secluded beaches and crystal-clear waters, are a haven for swimmers and kayakers.

Cassis is a charming harbor town that often escapes the attention of the typical tourist path.
Cassis is a charming harbor town that often escapes the attention of the typical tourist path.

A visit to Cassis isn’t complete without a stroll along the Cap Canaille, one of the highest sea cliffs in France. Here, you’ll find sweeping views of the Mediterranean. And for those with a palate for wines, the vineyards around Cassis produce some of the region’s finest white wines.

Cassis isn’t just another spot on the map. It’s where nature, history, and gastronomy come together in a laid-back coastal vibe, all set against the backdrop of the shimmering Mediterranean. Without a doubt, it’s one of the most underrated places in France that I recommend everyone to visit.

12. Aigues-Mortes

Imagine a fortified city, its medieval walls standing tall amidst vast salt marshes, reflecting colors of pink and purple as the sun sets. Welcome to Aigues-Mortes, a jewel in the Camargue region, and one of the most unique places to visit in France.

Founded by the French King Saint Louis in the 13th century as a launching point for the Crusades, Aigues-Mortes is steeped in history. The city’s ramparts, towers, and gates are remarkably well-preserved, allowing visitors to walk atop them and soak in panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes.

Aigues-Mortes serves as a spectacular conclusion to any French escapade, making it one of the best-hidden gems in France.
Aigues-Mortes serves as a spectacular conclusion to any French escapade, making it one of the best-hidden gems in France.

But it’s not just history that draws travelers here. The nearby salt flats, with their vibrant colors and flamingo inhabitants, are a sight to behold. The region’s wild beauty, combined with the city’s rich past, creates an atmosphere that’s both enchanting and mysterious.

Don’t leave without trying the local specialty, Fleur de Sel – a hand-harvested sea salt that’s renowned worldwide for its delicate flavor.

Aigues-Mortes is a grand finale to any French adventure. It’s one of France’s best hidden gems, where tales of knights and crusaders merge with the raw beauty of nature.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Hidden Gems in France

Are you looking for more information about where to go in France? Here are some common questions (and answers) I get asked a lot about France’s most underrated destinations.

What is the best-kept secret in France?

While France boasts numerous hidden treasures, one of the best hidden gems in France has to be Aigues-Mortes. This walled city, surrounded by vibrant salt marshes, offers a unique blend of history and natural beauty, making it a must-visit for those looking to explore France off the beaten path.

Where is the prettiest place in France?

France is home to countless beautiful destinations, but if one had to pick, the Calanques near Cassis stand out. These dramatic rocky inlets, with their secluded beaches and crystal-clear waters, are some of the most beautiful places in France. The juxtaposition of rugged cliffs and serene waters creates a spectacular landscape.

What is the wildest part of France?

The wildest part of France is arguably the region of Corsica. Here’s why:

Corsica: Often referred to as the “Island of Beauty,” Corsica is a mountainous Mediterranean island that boasts a mix of stylish coastal towns, dense forests, and craggy peaks. It has a distinct culture influenced by both French and Italian heritages.

  1. Rugged Terrain: Nearly two-thirds of the island is comprised of mountains. The GR 20 trail, which traverses the island, is considered one of the toughest long-distance trails in Europe.
  2. Diverse Ecosystems: Corsica is home to the Regional Natural Park of Corsica, which protects thousands of plant and animal species. The island’s isolation has led to the evolution of several endemic species.
  3. Remote Villages: While Corsica has its bustling towns, it also has remote, hilltop villages that offer a glimpse into traditional Corsican life.
  4. Wild Coastline: The island boasts over 1,000 kilometers of coastline, with dramatic cliffs, secluded coves, and pristine beaches.
  5. Cultural Distinctiveness: Corsica has its own language (Corsican) and a rich history of traditions and customs. The island has a strong sense of identity and has even seen movements pushing for greater autonomy from France.

While other regions in France, like the Pyrenees, the Alps, and parts of the Massif Central, also offer wild landscapes, Corsica’s combination of mountainous terrain, unique ecosystems, and cultural distinctiveness makes it stand out as one of the wildest parts of the country.

What are some underrated destinations in France?

France is brimming with destinations that often escape the typical tourist radar. Here are a few underrated French destinations that promise a unique experience:

1. Uzès: A historic town known for its medieval charm and the nearby Pont du Gard.

2. Saint-Véran: A mountainous village that’s among the highest inhabited regions in Europe.

3. Cap Ferret: A coastal gem offering a mix of oceanic and bay beaches, perfect for relaxation and water activities.

France is teeming with hidden gems, eager to be unearthed.
France is teeming with hidden gems, eager to be unearthed.

Where can I find unique places to visit in France?

For travelers keen on discovering destinations that stand out from the usual, France offers several spots that are both unique and captivating. The medieval town of Sarlat-la-Canéda, for instance, transports visitors back in time with its cobblestone streets and historic architecture. On the other hand, the village of Saint-Véran in the Alps provides breathtaking mountain views, which makes it a haven for nature enthusiasts.

What are the coolest places to go in France that aren’t touristy?

If you’re in search of authentic experiences away from the crowds, France has plenty to offer. Collioure, for example, is a coastal town that’s a favorite among artists, known for its vibrant colors and serene beaches. Aigues-Mortes, with its impressive medieval walls and proximity to salt marshes, offers a blend of history and natural beauty that’s hard to find elsewhere.

Are there any secret spots in France that are great for families?

Absolutely! France is dotted with destinations that are both family-friendly and off the mainstream path. Cap Ferret, with its mix of beaches, is a hit among families. The calm bay waters are perfect for kids, while the ocean side offers a more dynamic beach experience. Additionally, towns like Uzès provide a mix of history and recreational activities, ensuring entertainment for all ages.

What to do in France if I want a mix of history and nature?

France offers a plethora of options for those looking to immerse themselves in both history and nature. A visit to Aigues-Mortes, for instance, allows travelers to explore medieval architecture while being surrounded by the natural beauty of salt marshes. Similarly, the town of Cassis offers a rich maritime heritage set against the backdrop of the stunning Calanques.

Concluding France’s Hidden Gems

France, with its iconic landmarks and world-renowned attractions, often overshadows its own hidden treasures. But as we’ve journeyed through this article, it’s evident that the real magic lies in the lesser-known corners, the hidden gems that offer authentic experiences away from the bustling tourist spots.

From the towering peaks of Saint-Véran to the serene beaches of Cap Ferret, and the medieval charm of Aigues-Mortes, there’s a world waiting to be explored, promising unique stories and unforgettable memories.

These underrated destinations showcase France’s diverse landscape and history, each offering a distinct flavor of the country’s cultural tapestry. They beckon travelers with a sense of adventure, those eager to tread paths less traveled and discover the heart and soul of France.

The next time you think of France, look beyond the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. Dive deep into its hidden nooks and crannies, and you’ll find a France that’s more enchanting, more genuine, and infinitely more captivating.

Dive into this guide to discover the best hidden gems in France for all travelers
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