Ah, Paris – très beau, non? Beyond the big glitzy tourist attractions such as the Louvre, Notre Dame, Champs Elysees, and Eiffel Tower, there’s a city with a rich cultural history that’s second to none. Moliere, Edouard Manet, Ernest Hemingway, Edith Piaf, Colette, Jean-Paul Satre, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, James Baldwin, François Truffaut, and Brigitte Bardot – they all called the City of Lights home, making it an incredibly attractive place to visit.
Unfortunately, you’re not the only one to think so, as Paris has long been one of the most visited cities on Earth. If you’re eager to visit France and want to skip the crowds, visit these hidden gems instead.
To be fair, Strasbourg isn’t really a “hidden gem” – Europeans know how special it is, which is why one of the seats of the European Union’s Parliament is there. Right on the border with Germany, it features a unique blend of German and French history, lovely canals, and the famed Strasbourg Cathedral is an architectural sister of Paris’ Notre Dame, with a similar Roman Gothic style. The Cathedral and surrounding area is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its legendary spire made it the tallest building in Medieval Europe for a time, and Victor Hugo briefly references its majesty in Notre Dame de Paris.
If you’re a fan of Vincent van Gogh and have already seen his paintings in the Louvre, you’ll want to take a trip to Arles. Van Gogh loved the area, and it inspired several of his paintings.
If you’re interested in history, Dijon used to be the seat of power for the Duke of Burgundy. Palais de Ducs, built in the 14th century, is a must see.
If you’re traveling from London to Paris or vice versa by Eurostar, you’re in luck – Lille is a stop along the way. Once there, you’ll be able to enjoy everything from lovely second-hand bookstores to the Palais des Beaux Artes de Lille, one of France’s biggest art museums.
Looking for another UNESCO World Heritage site? Try the Basilica de St. Sernin, the largest surviving Romanesque structure in Europe. Toulouse is also home to some of France’s most intriguing culinary delicacies, so come with an open mind and empty stomach.