Millions of tourists visit “La Beautiful” France each year, jostling for a clear view of the Eiffel Tower and romanticizing the French Riviera. But what about the less traveled areas and villages? France is gorgeous and unique, not to mention the history and delicious food!
If you’re seeking for a place that provides something unique about France and its off-the-beaten-path attractions, keep reading for the top five hidden gems in 2023.
1. Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, Midi-Pyrenees
This medieval village perched on a rock is more than simply a picturesque location. It’s perched on a ledge with panoramic views of the Lot Valley, making it one of France’s best-kept secrets.
This settlement is distinct in that it is located within the Parc Naturel Régional des Causses du Quercy, a UNESCO World Geopark. It’s no surprise that this hidden treasure of a community has been named one of France’s most beautiful.
The Gothic church, stone buildings with tiled roofs, and perched location on a cliff make this community ideal for relaxing, strolling, and appreciating the beautiful nature surrounding you.
You can begin in the upper area and make your way through the tranquil town’s lanes and cobblestone streets. These small alleyways’ houses date back to the 14th century.
The Saint-Cirq Church is worth a visit, and history aficionados can explore the remnants of a castle, which also provides stunning views of the village’s limestone plateaus.
2. La Baule, Brittany
La Baule has been dubbed one of France’s most beautiful hidden secrets, owing to its stunning bay and the longest European beach.
This town is well-known for its beaches, but there is also plenty to see and do on the streets. The architecture of the area contains Art Deco residences and structures, many of which hold fantastic seafood restaurants.
La Baule is ideal for individuals who want to learn how to sail. Yachts dot the horizon, and you may take sailing lessons or go on boat tours.
3. Aigues-Mortes, Provence
Aigues-Mortes in southern France is one of the best hidden jewels for visitors wishing to discover a medieval village. Despite the fact that this area of France has grown significantly as a result of the salt flats, the ancient town’s fortified walls still intact.
There are two chapels within these walls: the Chapelle des Pénitents Gris and the Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs. The Grey and White Penitents, two religious brotherhoods going back to the Middle Ages, built these chapels.
The salt flats are undoubtedly the main draw here, and you can cycle, walk, or take a train trip (le petit train) across them. For a little more adventure, consider a boat ride on the gorgeous Camargue canals that surround this hidden gem.
4. Nevers, Burgundy
An simple journey across town on the blue line will allow you to explore many of the sites and architectural wonders that make this city so unique. It is well-known for its medieval architecture, particularly the Ducal Palace (Duke’s Palace). This palace was one of the first castles built in the Loire Valley. You can also gaze at the stained glass windows in St. Juliette and St. Cyr Cathedrals.
Nevers is one of those hidden jewels in France that never disappoints. You can learn about the history of ceramic art (and visit traditional workshops) and admire the city’s churches (of note are the Chapelle St. Marie, the Church of St. Etienne, and the Church of St. Bernadette du Banlay).
5. Haut-Kœnigsbourg, Alsace
France is densely packed with castles, but Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle may be one of the best-kept secrets in France!
The first mention of Haut-Knigsbourg Castle dates from 1147. It was known as Castrum Estuphin during the time. This stronghold was strategically placed above the Alsace plain to monitor trade routes. The name of the castle was altered to Hohkoenigsbourg, which translates to “High Royal Castle,” in 1157.
Regrettably, the castle was destroyed and had to be rebuilt in 1462. It was strengthened and could now withstand most artillery shells. During the Thirty Years’ War, however, the Swedish artillery defeated the stronghold. The castle was destroyed by fire in 1633, and the remnants were abandoned.
The ruins were designated a historical monument in 1862. A few years later, the ruins were purchased by the town of Sélestat, and an extensive restoration plan was devised. Restoration work was never completed due to a lack of money. As Germany acquired the region in 1899, Sélestat gave the remains to Kaiser Wilhelm II. Kaiser Wilhelm was eager to demonstrate his strength in northern France’s Alsace area. As a result, between 1900 and 1908, he entirely renovated the castle.
Haut-Koenigsbourg was handed to the French government after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. In 1993, the totally renovated castle was designated as a historical monument.