France, with its fantastic wines, excellent cuisine and sunny shores is one of the most beautiful countries in Europe. While Paris might be the first thing that pops into your head, France is actually a great country for road trips. Every region has its own share of historical villages, wines and sights. Driving definitely gives you the chance to explore some of the smaller towns and get into that laid-back French vibe. So load up the car with wine (notice how that’s the third time I mention wine, priorities!) and visit some of the most beautiful towns in France!
5 Beautiful Towns in France
Located on top of a hill in the centre of France is Vézelay, a small town with about 500 residents that gets quite busy with tourists in summer. The main attraction is the Vézelay Abbey, (A UNESCO Heritage Site) that is over 900 years old and holds great historical value. Nowadays, the choir still practices in the church, you could be lucky!
The little streets and squares surrounding the abbey boasts salons de thé, small boutique hotels, and there are several view points, the most beautiful one behind the church. As Vézelay is located in the Bourgogne region, you will find a lot of wine shops selling good Bourgogne Vézelay.
We loved our time here, enjoying a few days of small town summer life.
> Where to sleep: SY Les Glycines.
Not too far from Vézelay, is Noyers-sur-Serein, an incredibly charming, tiny town surrounded by a creek. The walk around the city will take you about an hour and will show you the remains of the city gate, the river and take you through the little streets with wooden houses. There are some excellent restaurants here as well, which makes for a perfect day trip.
Our restaurant tip: Bistrot des Grands Crus. They offer a wonderful 4 course buffet, cheeses, good wines and have a nice, shaded terrace outside.
Another medieval town. We love our history! The streets of Troyes, along the Seine, are lined with 16th century timber houses, an impressive number of churches and little cafés. Especially Sainte-Madeleine is beautiful, and still has Renaissance stained glass.
Located in the champagne region, there’s plenty champagne to choose from while you sit in the sunshine, and an added bonus: one of the best chocolatiers in the world comes from Troyes. Maison Caffet might be the fanciest chocolate shop you’ve ever seen. No need to be intimidated, and definitely worth the wait!
Uzerche, an hour south of Limoges, is called the ‘pearl of the Limousin’, a region in southern France, especially knows for its excellent beef and clear air. It’s another one of those beautiful French towns that make you fantasize about long gone times.
There is plenty to see in Uzerche, to start with the 14th century gate at the bottom of the road towards Bécharie castle. From there you’ll have a fantastic view over the city by the river. The small streets leading down have a surprising amount of little art shops. Find a small little cafe by the river or go for a picnic near the old stone bridge.
If you’re looking to load up with a heavy French lunch; visit La Table de M, a cute little restaurant with outdoor seating. You’ll definitely need a siesta after that!
What we loved about Treignac, is that down by the river Vézère, you can follow a walking path on the banks and see the town from down below. You will see the 13th century bridge, and up in town, you’ll find old chapels and the Chapel of Our Lady of Peace, that has a bell tower. You can climb it for beautiful views!
Very close to Treignac is a lake where you can go swimming, camp out, do water sports and relax for a bit.
>Brasserie Treignac is a great place for a shaded lunch or even a night’s stay.
There are so many beautiful towns in France, and this is obviously just a selection. Because we have family in France we drive quite often, and most of the time decided to take out sweet time getting to the south.
If you’re bound to public transport, fear not! For instance, Troyes is only a 1,5 hour train ride away from Paris. The public transport system is quite extensive and will definitely get you to the smaller towns as well.
Want to branch out a bit more? Europe is full of beautiful, medieval towns that are more than worth a trip, and Ach and Rym have put them in a wonderful list!