Dining

4 Under-the-Radar French Cities You Should Visit

We'll always have Paris, so give these other spots a chance
Photo: Arvid Høidahl via Unsplash

You might have heard of a little place called Paris, but are you familiar with the alpine, Venice-like city of Annecy? It may not have the Eiffel Tower, but it has enough cheese to tide you over for months. Although the more obvious choices like Nice and Bordeaux are gems in their own right, these four places offer a deeper look into authentic regional French culture (and offer some wallet-friendly alternatives).

Strasbourg

Check out Strasbourg for a flower-clad romantic getaway in the country's eastern region of Alsace. The city's gastronomy, culture and architecture are all heavily influenced by neighboring Germany, highlighted by a gorgeous Gothic Cathedral, cobblestone streets and picturesque lines of half-timbered houses. Expect meat-heavy dishes, sauerkraut and salty pretzels, which you can wash down with the region's local white wines, predominantly made from Riesling, Gewürztraminer or Pinot Gris.   

Tours

Starting from Paris, you're just a 90-minute high-speed train ride west away from this small city. It's located between the Cher and Loire rivers and is known for a 12th-century cathedral, botanical gardens, and most importantly, proximity to wine country. Hit a Loire Valley wine tasting or château tour, take in the countryside for a weekend, then return back to Paris for more city explorations.

Annecy

Rich cheeses, turquoise waters and all-around Alpine spirit reign supreme in Annecy, France's crown jewel of the southeast. This charming city is regarded for its Venice-like feel, dotted with twisting canals and pastel-colored homes. Fill up on regional delights such as Raclette, fondue, cured meats and other Savoyard favorites, paired with a crisp glass of Altesse or Jacquere. And, if you're there in winter, the skiing is excellent.

Montpellier

Known for its charming architecture, warm sunny days and proximity to the salty Mediterranean, this university town is one of France's best kept secrets, especially for those who yearn for a solid urban environment. Explore one of the city's many small gardens or local pottery shops, relish the local wines and fresh seafood and be sure to take advantage of Montpellier's easy access to both beaches and wineries.

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