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10 Alternative French City Breaks

Dijon, France Picture Credit: Canva

Ah, La France! A nation that unabashedly invites us with its sumptuous cuisines, astonishing architecture, and that insatiable 'joie de vivre'. While Paris undoubtedly steals many a heart, today let’s embark on a leisurely journey through French charm with a twist – exploring its lesser-known yet utterly enchanting cities. So, get ready as we uncover 10 alternative French city breaks that promise an escape into the enchanting realms of this splendid country.

1. Dijon: Culinary and Historic Delights

Venture into Dijon, where every cobblestone and timbered house whispers tales from the past. Delight in the ornate details of the Palace of the Dukes and immerse yourself in the spicy legend of Dijon mustard at La Moutarderie Edmond Fallot, providing a sensory journey through flavours and aromas.

2. Lille: Vibrancy in Architecture and Culture

Lille, with its spellbinding blend of Flemish and French influences, hosts enchanting market squares and the irresistible annual La Braderie. Wander through its grandiose Grand Place, appreciating its vivacious spirit, and uncover treasures in its many antique shops, showcasing centuries of rich, cultural artefacts.

3. Nantes: A Maritime Fantasy

Nantes beckons with its maritime spirit, encapsulated by the mesmerising Machines of the Isle of Nantes, where fantastical creatures spring to life. Discover the storied Castle of the Dukes of Brittany, and let the elegance of the Loire River captivate your senses as you traverse this dynamic city.

4. Lyon: Gastronomy and Silk

Lyon, where the Saône and Rhône rivers intertwine, invites you on a gastronomic adventure through its acclaimed bouchons, while its historical silk industry weaves a tale of craftsmanship and splendour. Explore Vieux Lyon, and traverse its secret traboules, unveiling mysteries and architectural marvels.

5. Biarritz: Royal Retreat and Surf Haven

Biarritz, a royal and surfing haven, offers a luxurious escape amidst its sandy beaches and roaring waves. Visit the alluring Villa Belza, and explore the rich marine life at the Aquarium de Biarritz, revealing the city's royal and natural splendours in one captivating visit.

6. Toulouse: The Vibrant Pink City

Toulouse, bathed in warm terracotta hues, offers a striking mix of aerospace innovation at the Cité de l’Espace and historical reverence in its grand Capitole de Toulouse. Explore its lush public parks and enjoy a serene cruise along the Canal du Midi, discovering a city where antiquity and future coalesce.

7. Avignon: Popes and Vineyards

Avignon, the city of popes, invites you to explore the vast Palais des Papes and stroll along the remnants of the Pont Saint-Bénézet. Meander through its winding streets, and embark on a sensory journey through the surrounding vineyards, where the terroir speaks through every glass.

8. Nice: Riviera Charm and Multicoloured Markets

Nice, graced by the azure waters of the Mediterranean, enchants with its iconic Promenade des Anglais and the multi-hued vibrancy of the Cours Saleya Flower Market. Dive into the rich heritage at Musée Marc Chagall, and allow the Old Town (Vieux-Nice) to lead you through a tapestry of history and culinary wonder.

9. Strasbourg: Timber-Framed Beauty

Strasbourg, where Franco-German influences dance together, captivates with its timber-framed houses, awe-inspiring Strasbourg Cathedral, and picturesque La Petite France district. Explore its enchanting canals, and discover the fascinating history embedded in the walls of its museums and vibrant, cultural festivals.

10. Reims: Effervescence and Gothic Splendour

Reims, nestled in the Champagne region, enchants with its stunning Notre-Dame Cathedral and historic champagne houses, where tradition and taste converge in sparkling harmony. Explore the UNESCO-listed Champagne Avenue and delve into the catacombs of centuries-old cellars, sipping through history and elegance.