When you think of France, you might only think of Paris. The city of love is obviously iconic and an amazing place to visit, but the rest of France has some serious hidden beauty waiting to be explored.
The French countryside is dotted with quaint villages and breathtaking landscapes. It’s the type of region that you don’t know what you’re missing out on until you get your first glimpse.
If you’re venturing out of the Parisian bubble, here are some top destinations in the French countryside to put on your itinerary!
Just an 18-minute train ride out of Lyon, Vienne is a real French gem. Check out the ancient Roman ruins and amphitheater that really take you back in time, all the while enjoying a glass of wine at one of the cute cafes surrounding the ruins.
Further down, towards the river, is a beautiful church that will take your breath away.
Make sure you visit the park and take a stroll along the river. There are also lots of local craft shops and clothing boutiques if you’re in the mood for shopping. All of these spots are located walking distance to the train station, so it’s super easy to see the whole place in a day.
In the Bourgogne region, Mâcon is also around a 40-minute train ride out of Lyon. The river here is stunning, and on the weekends, there is a market that takes place along the banks.
Grab some local produce to snack on while you explore the rest of Mâcon!
Everything in Mâcon is really central, making it easy to walk. On your way down from the train station towards the river, you’ll pass plenty of cool shops as well. Mâcon is ideal to place to pick up some picnic supplies from a supermarket, and find a patch of green grass along the river… afternoon complete!
In the Bourgogne region, Bourg-en-Bresse has a lovely and chilled out vibe to it. This cute town has an old, relaxed feel but still has a huge range of modern boutique shops you can check out.
History doesn’t take a side step to the shopping though, with stunning churches and historic buildings that have that classic European feel. The main square is a great place to sit back for a beverage or something to eat while appreciating the views and people watching.
In picture-perfect Provence sits the quaint little town of Manosque. The train station is located right in the middle of town, but really you’ll want to have a car for the day if possible. Manosque is the perfect starting point to explore unbeatable landscapes, fields of red poppies, and bright yellow sunflowers.
Take a day trip to the Gorge de Verdon, a river canyon carved out by the mighty Verdon River. The stunning cliffs, blue water, and white-water rapids will blow you away. A day of climbing, hiking, and probably stumbling across a watering hole along the way to cool off in the hot Provence sun.
This part of France has such amazing outdoor adventures and natural beauty!
Back to Bourgogne, Cluny is an absolute hidden delight. This quaint village has some of the most stunning architecture in eastern France. With a Roman influence, the building, especially the Cluny Abbey, hold so much history.
The park here is a real must-see—lounge back in the green grass while overlooking some ancient building ruins.
Cluny has a cute country vibe with surrounding farm fields and horses scattering the countryside. The Museum of Art and Archeology is also an awesome experience here, as well as climbing the Cheese Tower to get some serious perspective through some breathtaking views.
When I traveled through Provence earlier this year, I decided to base myself in the medieval city of Avignon. Its old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and staying here felt like I was transported back into time.
The city’s Palais des Papes is the largest Gothic fortress in the world. It boasts that classic French fairytale allure, and it’s easy to imagine the building’s history of rebellion play out as you wander through the halls.
Read More: The Ultimate Guide to Provence
Colmar is the capital of the Alsace wine region and is fondly called “Little Venice.” But for Disney fans, it’s a real-life fairy-tale come true.
The town’s small canals and pastel candy-colored houses are believed to have inspired the village for Beauty and the Beast. It’s one of the most Instagrammable villages in the French countryside, and you’ll have plenty of photo inspiration!
L’Isle sur la Sorgu
Known as the ‘island city’, L’Isle sur la Sorgu is a haven or art and antique lovers. It’s home to more than 300 secondhand shops, overflowing with unique finds that you won’t find anywhere else.
If you’re after a rare antique item to add to your collection, visit the town over Easter. During the holiday, more than 500 antique dealers come to L’Isle sur la Sorgue to set up stalls.
Chamonix is the snowtopia of France. Located near Mount Blanc, the town is home to sweeping views of the snowcapped mountains and adrenaline pumping activities.
It’s the perfect French countryside escape if you’re looking for action. The town is known for its excellent skiing conditions and nearby hiking trails.
If you need a break from all the action, you can explore the town and enjoy its delicious foodie scene.
The town is full of old red buildings with colorful doors, set against the impressive scenery of orange cliffs. Wander around the narrow streets and explore Roussillon’s natural heritage with the orchre trail.
Don’t leave without making your way up to the town’s highest point – the orientation table. It boasts panoramic views over Luberon and the nearby mountains.
Read More: Tips for Visiting Roussillon
What are some of your favorite places to visit in the French countryside? Let me know in the comments below!