Digging for hidden gems – France

France is the most visited country not just in Europe, but the entire world! It welcomes around 90,000,000 visitors through its borders each year! It is not hard to see why when you consider The Eiffel Tower and The Louver Museum draws tourists to Paris in the north. While golden beaches and the Mediterranean Sea draws tourists to Nice and the surrounding cities down south of the nation. Although there may be herds of tourists visiting here each year, that doesn’t mean that there are areas that aren’t undiscovered to most foreign tourists. These are the locations you should dig for hidden gems in France.

RENNES

WHERE IS RENNES?: Rennes is located in the Brittany region, in the northwest of France.

HOW TO GET HERE: The closest airport to Rennes is Airport Rennes Bretagne. It is near the city of Rennes, just 6 km away. However, this is a small airport and only offers a handful of routes throughout Europe.

The most popular way is to fly into Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport and take a 3-hour bus journey to Gare La Poterie. Tickets can be purchased at the airport or booking in advance online will save some of your hard earned cash.

A busy square in Rennes, France

WHY VISIT RENNES?: This is the capital city of Brittany, and it’s known for its medieval half-timbered houses and grand Rennes Cathedral. Although parts of the city have a Germanic visual aspect, the majority is brimming with culture and architecture you would associate with a typical French city.

Parts of this city seem like a mini Paris, but Rennes can offer much more than its counterpart. Streets and museums aren’t packed with tourists, Cafés and restaurants which don’t require a new mortgage for an evening meal and the feel of a city that has not lost its culture and historical values from being overrun by over-tourism.

TOP EXPERIENCES IN RENNES: (1) A visit to the Museum of Fine Arts. (2) A picnic surrounded by nature in Parc du Thabor. (3) Snap up some photos at Sant Georges Palace. (4) Turn off google maps and get lost in the old town. (5) Explore Marché des Lices and taste the amazing French cuisine.

More information: https://www.tourisme-rennes.com/en/

LILLE

WHERE IS LILLE: The city is located in the Hauts-de-France region in northern France, near the border with Belgium.

HOW TO GET HERE: Lille Airport is located around 7km south of the city of Lille. It is a small airport which only handles a few routes throughout France, Europe, and North Africa.

There are quite a few popular airports located near the city of Lille. Brussels South Charleroi Airport is located just 119km away and is popular with Ryanair. Brussels Airport is located 129km away while Beauvais Airport, located in Paris, is around 195 km away.

The town hall in Lille

WHY VISIT LILLE: Lille offers a slightly different vibe compared to a typical French city. Since it is quite near the border with Belgium, the city has been influenced by a mix of both French and Flemish architecture. The old city center of Lille is famous for its Flemish squares and belfries, while the surrounding streets are like a picture taken from the historical lanes of Paris.

During the day, the city acts as a bustling cultural hub with attractions such as the Natural History Museum and the Palais des Beaux-Arts, which rivals the world-renowned Louvre Museum in Paris. During the evening, the streets come alive from the 67,000 students living here all looking for an exhilarating atmosphere.

TOP EXPERIENCES IN LILLE: (1) Admire art and architecture at Palais de Beaux Art. (2) Sip on a coffee (or a glass of wine) and admire Place Charles de Gaulle Square. (3) Take a trip back in time at the Citadel of Lille. (4) Experience the best of French cuisine at Marché de Wazemmes. (5) Take in the city from above at the top of Belfry.

More information: https://en.lilletourism.com/visit-lille.html

BORDEAUX

WHERE IS BORDEAUX?: The city is located on the banks of Gironde estuary in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of southwest France.

HOW TO GET HERE: Bordeaux Merignac Airport is located 12 km West of Bordeaux. Ryanair operates numerous routes throughout Europe from here. The airport also has a direct trans-Atlantic flight to Monetal in Canada.

Flying directly to Bordeaux is by far the most convenient way of getting there. But if your local airport doesn’t fly to Bordeaux, you can also check out Biarritz, San Sabastian, and Toulouse airports. All are at a reasonable distance to the city.

A narrow street in Bordeaux

WHY VISIT BORDEAUX?: The city is littered with fairytale towers and spires throughout the city. The streets are crisp, pristine, and lined with trendy cafés, bistros, and bakeries providing the pathways with the smell of roasted coffee beans and freshly baked bread. Not to mention, this is the wine capital of Europe.

This is a pleasant and relaxing city to be in, but that doesn’t make it dull and quiet. It has an upbeat and positive atmosphere helped along by the very friendly locals and the interesting and exciting attractions. To top it off, its compact size gives you a great opportunity to experience several bars throughout the night.

TOP EXPERIENCES IN BORDEAUX: (1) Run through the reflective pool at Place de la Bourse. (2) Pay a visit to the iconic Big Bell of Bordeaux. (3) Step inside the breathtaking Bordeaux Cathedral. (4) Explore the colossal Cité du Vin museum. (5) Share a bottle of local wine along the waterfront at Angelic Park.

More information: https://www.bordeaux-tourism.co.uk/

PERPIGNAN

WHERE IS PERPIGNAN?: Perpignan is located in the Pyrenees-Orientales region of southern France, near the border with Spain.

HOW TO GET HERE: Perpignan–Rivesaltes Airport is a small airport with a limited amount of national and international flights.

For those who do not have a local airport with a direct flight to Perpignan, you have a couple of more options. Carcassonne and Girona airports are both located just over an hour’s drive away. These airports have frequent flights from budget airline Ryanair, especially in the summer months.

A river in Perpignan, France

WHY VISIT PERPIGNAN: Perpignan is the last word when it comes to city charm. For such a small and compact city, it manages to produce an abundance of top-class restaurants, which are all small and appealing. After you’re satisfied with a delicious meal from its wonderful food scene, you are spoilt for choice with what you can do for the day.

You can take a sunny trip through history in restored palaces, medieval cathedrals, or a historical fortress. If that isn’t your cup of tea, you can seek out the nearby Mediterranean Sea and test your skills in windsurfing, or just lay down and relax on the sun kissed golden beach.

TOP EXPERIENCES IN PERPIGNAN: (1) Learn about the local history at Le Castillet. (2) Explore the 13th century Palace of Kings Museum. (3) Head to the Mediterranean Sea and beaches. (4) Dine al fresco at one of the wonderful restaurants here. (5) Admire some modern and Baroque art at Hyacinthe Rigaud Museum.

More information: https://www.tourism-mediterraneanpyrenees.com/perpignan

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