August 19, 2015

The French countryside is dotted with beautiful places to visit, and having a car gives you the freedom to explore them all.

Whenever there’s a chance to explore France off the beaten track, I jump at the opportunity. France is full of so many hidden gems that are just waiting to be explored, and over the years, I’ve visited some truly stunning places with my family, where I’ve made memories that will stay with me forever. Some of the country’s smaller towns are treasure troves when it comes to culture, history and scenery; here are some of my favourite parts of little known France.

Kaysersberg, Alsace

In north-eastern France, the Alsace region is a popular destination due to its wonderful food, drink and natural beauty along the Rhine River. Kaysersberg is a rural town which exudes traditional French life, and it’s a popular stop with those travelling along the Alsace wine trail. I wanted to mention it in my list as it’s a fantastic family-friendly destination, as well as a popular spot for wine-lovers.

The town centre is stunning, with half-timbered houses and flowers on every corner, and there are historic monuments dotted across town that throw you into the area’s history. Take a walk north of the town centre, and explore the ruins of an old château, or wander through the old town and enjoy the Renaissance building, Hôtel de Ville, whilst teaching your little ones a little about the area’s history.

 Kaysersberg is a stunning part of the Alsace region
Kaysersberg is a stunning part of the Alsace region.

Brioude, Auvergne

A small town, Brioude can be found in south-central France, in the Auvergne region, alongside the Allier River. Brioude boasts the region’s largest Christian church, built between the 11th and 14th centuries, and the basilica has a beautiful mosaic floor. The town is sprinkled with Romanesque features, like medieval frescoes, and my kids particularly enjoyed walking around town on a Saturday, as this is when the weekly market is held.

Take the family into the centre for some delicious local produce and enjoy a quintessentially French spot of lunch. There’s also a freshwater aquarium in town, which is a great place for the kids to visit. The hilly Auvergne region is a fantastic place for a family walk, too, so stretch your legs and start exploring.

Buis-les-Baronnies, Drôme

Close to Mount Ventoux, a popular spot for hikers and mountain climbers, Buis-les-Baronnies is a wonderful commune in south-eastern France. Set back from the bustling Mediterranean coast, Buis-les-Baronnies benefits from the same warm climates. You’ll find many different types of medicinal and edible plants and flowers growing throughout the region of Drôme, such as lavender, apricots, lime trees, vines, and olives.

The area is actually a centre for olive oil, and I’ve spent many a lunchtime drizzling it over fresh French salads! Similar to the other towns on my list, Buis-les-Baronnies boasts some stunning features, such as its Renaissance gateway and pretty market square. Market day is Wednesday, and there’s often a night market on Friday evenings between 6pm and 10pm.

 Take your family for a walk around the Drôme countryside
Take your family for a walk around the Drôme countryside.

Rochefort-en-Terre, Brittany

Brittany is an incredibly popular spot for tourists, especially us Brits! It can be difficult to find places here that aren’t too crowded, and whilst Rochefort-en-Terre gets its fair share of visitors, it maintains its small-town French charm. It’s a designated ‘Petite Cité de Caractére’ (small town of character), a title which is given to towns across France for their quality of heritage, and when you explore this town, it’s easy to see why it’s received such notoriety for its beauty.

Picturesque squares, medieval buildings and old mansions can be found throughout Rochefort-en-Terre, and one of these medieval houses used to be owned by American painter Alfred Klots, which over the years has given the town a status as an artistic hub. My family particularly enjoyed the locals’ tradition of decorating their homes with geraniums, as this causes walls everywhere to burst with colour. The town’s artistic status still continues today, and you’ll find some great arts and crafts shops along the cobbled streets. Try taking your family to the candle maker, or buy your kids an authentic toy from the local toy maker.

 Rochefort-en-Terre is one of France’s prettiest towns, where better to take the family on holiday
Rochefort-en-Terre is one of France’s prettiest towns, where better to take the family on holiday?

Ready to explore little known France?

There are countless gems to uncover on your next road trip, and with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle you can get from Folkestone to Calais in just 35 minutes.

Photo Credits:
Kaysersberg is a stunning part of the Alsace region - Image by Rod-20
Take your family for a walk around the Drôme countryside - Image by Matthieu FAURE
Rochefort-en-Terre is one of France’s prettiest towns - Image by Theveneau Francis
The French countryside is dotted with beautiful places to visit - Image by Alpha du centaure

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