advertisement
  • Cycling in the Countryside: The country that hosts the Tour de France offers thousands of options for bike trips, all of them ideal for leaving the crowds far behind. You’re even welcome to take your bike aboard most trains in France, free of charge. For cycling through Provence’s vineyards and past pretty hilltop villages, check out Le Luberon à Vélo’s downloadable routes. 
  • Hunting for Antiques: The 18th- and 19th-century French aesthetic was gloriously different from that of England and North America. Many objects bear designs with mythological references to the French experience. France has some 13,000-plus antiques shops throughout the country. Stop where you see the sign ANTIQUAIRE or BROCANTE.
  • Cruising France’s Rivers: Floating slowly down one of France’s major rivers is a superb way to see hidden corners of the countryside. Most luxury barge cruises offer daily excursions, elegant dinners on deck, and bicycles for solitary exploration. 
  • Reveling in St-Etienne-du-Mont: One of the prettiest in Paris, this stunning church that sits atop the highest point in Paris’s Latin Quarter is often left off the tourist itinerary. A delightful mix of late-Gothic and Renaissance styles, the church has a 16th-century chancel boasting the city’s only rood screen, a magnificent work with decorations inspired by the Italian Renaissance.
  • Going Underground at Touraine’s Troglodyte Caves: Admire art, sample regional wine, and even stay the night underground in the Loire’s Touraine region, home to France’s largest concentration of Troglodyte caves.
  • Returning to the Time of the Crusades (Loire): See the history behind the foolhardy Crusades at the 12th-century Abbey of Fontevraud. It’s one of the largest medieval monasteries in Europe as well as the final resting place of most of the Plantagenets. 
  • Peeking at Crypt Murals Auxerre (Burgundy): The overused term “hidden gems” is appropriate to describe Auxerre’s two crypt murals because that is exactly what they are. Underneath the remains of the Abbaye Saint-Germain are a series of religious wall murals dating from the 9th century, the oldest so far found in France. Those at the nearby Cathédrale Saint-Etienne go back to the 11th century and are famous for depicting a rare image of Christ on a horse. 
  • Discovering Secret Beaches between Monaco and Roquebrune-Cap-Martin (Riviera): The Riviera’s rippling coastal path turns up plenty of hidden surprises. Head east out of Monaco, passing the Monte-Carlo Beach Hotel. The trail then meanders along the Mediterranean shoreline. Aleppo pines and fig trees part to reveal the tiniest turquoise coves. Pack your swimming suit.
  • Tracing the Trenches: While Normandy usually attracts most visitors interested in war history, the western front of World War I carved its way through Eastern France. Many moving battlefield sites and memorials are located near Verdun.
  • Marveling at France’s “Stonehenge” (Brittany): The seaside resort of Carnac is home to the largest megalithic site in the world. A visit might not answer how these massive stones got turned upright, but it will certainly leave you pondering the mysteries and theories surrounding this curious site. 
  • Exploring the Glamorous Château des Millandes (Dordogne): This splendid Renaissance castle was the former home of singer/dancer Josephine Baker. Learn about her fascinating life and visit rooms furnished as they were when she lived there, then take a stroll in the gardens. 
  • Meandering through Traboules in Vieux Lyon (Rhône Valley): Hidden behind brown-painted doorways lie flower-ringed courtyards and vaulted masonry ceilings. You’ll discover many architectural gems on a 2-hr. tour around Vieux Lyon’s medieval traboules—corridors connecting two streets through a building or courtyard. 
  • Rambling the Sentier des Ocres de Roussillon (Provence): Located in the heart of the Luberon, Roussillon once possessed some of the world’s most important ochre quarries. Today this landscape is just as brilliantly hued and can be explored via a picturesque hiking trail.
  • Greeting the Morning (Languedoc-Roussillon): Stay in Cordes-sur-Ciel, wake up at dawn and walk to the ramparts to watch the sun rise over the medieval city “in the sky.” Cordes is the most spectacular medieval bastide around Albi but it’s overrun by visitors during peak months, so this way you’ll have the fairytale village to yourself.
  • Sampling Champagne's Art Treasures (Champagne Country): The south of the Champagne region has some little-known gems that will delight art lovers. The Musée d’Art Moderne in Troyes, housed in an atmospheric former bishops’ palace, has an exquisite collection of modern art from 1850–1960. Two new museums opened in 2017 in this area: Auguste Renoir’s family home in Essoyes, and the Musée Camille Claudel in Nogent-sur-Seine, which celebrates the talent of Auguste Rodin’s student and lover.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.