Dreaming of traveling to France, but want to avoid the crowds and touristy attractions that Paris offers? At HomeExchange, we love taking a trip off the beaten path to explore the lesser known sights, sounds and tastes that France has to offer. When you plan your next vacation in France with home exchange, consider staying in one of these beautiful locations.
Normandy is in northern France and has a gorgeous coastline for plenty of summer beach time. We suggest renting a car so you can spend time exploring the region and the sights and delicious food (oysters and cheese!) it has to offer.
While you're in Normandy, visit Mont-Saint-Michel, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the historical town of Rouen, and Giverny, where you can see the garden that inspired Monet's paintings. For a special treat, take a drive to the Etretat Cliffs, where you will see enormous white limestone cliffs and can enjoy a relaxing walk on the pebble beach.
Of course, Normandy also offers its share of historical sites, so if you're a history buff, visit D-Day beaches in Normandy. There are museums, memorials and cemeteries commemorating the invasion that helped turn the tide in World War II, leading to the fall of Nazi Germany.
When you travel to elegant Nice, make sure to visit the Promenade des Anglais, a walkway beside the Mediterranean sea. In February, you'll see parades for the Nice Carnival there, and the rest of the year you'll find 7 kilometers of restaurants, places to shop and the beautiful seascape.
Don't miss a visit to the Vieille Ville, the oldest part of the city, and grab a crepe or a coffee. While you're there, the Nice Cathedral is worth a tour. The cathedral was built in the 17th century and boasts ornate sculptures, gilding and paintings.
Art fans should visit the Musée Matisse, one of the largest collections of the works of Henri Matisse.
Nice is a beautiful place for beach lovers to visit. The long beaches are truly magnificent, including a four-mile stretch of the French Riviera. If you're looking to relax in a temperate climate with stunning blue beaches, Nice is for you!
Head to southern France and you will fall in love with Marseille, a charming port city. Stroll along Vieux-Port (Old Port) in the morning and watch fishmongers selling their fresh catches. If you love seafood, Marseille is the place to be! The city's famous dish is bouillabaisse, which originated in Marseille and is a delightful seafood stew.
Other Marseille attractions include the Church of Saint-Ferréol Les Augustins, Saint Victor’s Abbey and the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations. If you are craving the outdoors, head to the Massif des Calanques, a national park with stunning creeks and white limestone cliffs.
Provence offers diverse landscapes, so there is something for everyone. The Southern Alps, Mediterranean Sea, vineyards and olive groves ensure you'll never be bored when you travel to Provence. Provence is also known for its lavender fields, which are sweeping and sweet, making for a beautiful walk or photo opportunity. The lavender fields are at their peak in mid-summer.
If you're nostalgic for Paris during your offbeat tour of France, you should know Provence has its own Arc de Triomphe, and it's the original one! The arc is a UNESCO world heritage site and was constructed between 10 and 26 CE.
Foodies should make sure to try ratatouille and salade Niçoise, specialities of the region.
If you travel to find the best glass of wine, Bordeaux might just have it for you. The city in southwestern France is famous for its vineyards. If you're a wine fanatic or just want to learn more, check out the Cité du Vin, a modern museum with movies, exhibitions, workshops and tastings to help you learn about the history and culture of wine. When you get hungry, make sure to try the duck confit, arguably the best in the world.
Once you sober up a bit, visit the Gothic Cathédrale Saint-André or stroll through the public gardens along the curving river quays. Enjoy the cobbled streets, plenty of shopping, activities and places to eat and drink in this vibrant city.