Off the Beaten Track in France

France is not only about Paris, Mont St-Michel, and Palais des Papes. There are other hidden gems in the country that are just as astounding and spectacular as the popular ones. Here’s a mini guide with seven of the most underrated gems in France that are worthy of a visit.

Le Puy-en-Velay, Auvergne

What makes the Auvergne breathtaking is the view of the site’s three most prized monuments, a dark basalt cathedral, a red statue of the Madonna, and a chapel seated on an almost 83-meter high lava peak.

The view can be captured on a high plateau while on the way to the premises of Le Puy. Unknown to many, Le Puy was included in the many starting points for the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela and up to this day, there are still serious walkers that flock here.

Neuf-Brisach, Alsace

One of the lesser-known UNESCO World Heritage sites can be found right on the French-German border, the Neuf-Brisach. The sleepy Alsatian town is nestled between a red-sandstone fort in the shape of an eight-pointed star. During the reign of Louis XIV in 1967, the fort was built as a defense from enemy attacks.

Le Grau-du-Roi, Languedoc

Situated along the coastline, Le Grau-du-Roi is a definite sight to see (minus the tremendous tourist crowds) in the season. This spot on the water offers a relaxing view of the beach, a fascinating seaquarium where dozens of species of marine life thrive, and a refreshing atmosphere in which to stroll along the port docks. Le Grau-du-Roi is a seaside holiday you would be crazy to miss.

Musée d’Art Moderne, Céret, Roussillon

Want to indulge in some French art but want to skip the long lines at the Louvre? Here’s a place that will take you to another less visited (but rather absorbing and classic) museum in Roussillon. Picasso donated more than 50 of his famed works to the Museum of Modern Art, also known as the Musée d’Art Moderne.

Lyon in Rhone-Alpes

Although the city is the second largest in France, most visitors only use it as a gateway to the country, missing all of its festivities and attractions altogether. With tons of museums dotting the whole of the city, plus dozens of antique and antiquarian bookshops around every corner, it is surprising how few people are attracted to the site.

Beaujolais, Burgundy

With steep hills and lush vineyards, Beaujolais lays right to the west of the Rhône and to the north of Lyon. The peaceful town is famous for its wines, but few people get a chance to taste them straight from the vineyard themselves. This little gem is perfect for a countryside getaway where the villages are peaceful, and the people are very wine-centered.

Alésia MuséoParc, Alise-Sainte-Reine

The recently-opened tourist spot Alésia MuséoParc is the same spot where Julius Caesar ended the leader of the Gauls Vercingétorix back in 52 B.C. Actors play the part and the reconstructed Roman camp of Alésia completes the experience. It will certainly not leave the visitors disappointed, especially if your interests are leaning towards this sort of activity.