Hey there, curious traveler! Have you been dreaming of an authentic trip to France but don’t want to deal with massive tourist crowds and long lines? You’ve come to the right place. As a frequent visitor to France over the last decade, I’ve uncovered some hidden gems – secret spots where locals love to escape the bustle of big cities and tourist hotspots.
From picturesque coastal villages to stunning mountain retreats, you’ll find a side of France that feels undiscovered yet completely enchanting. So pack your bags, brush up on your French, and get ready to embark on an adventure to the country’s best-kept secrets. Allons-y! The hidden gems of France await.
Avoid the Crowds in Paris and Discover These Hidden Gems
Paris is magical, but the crowds at major attractions like the Eiffel Tower and Louvre can be overwhelming, especially in summer. The locals know where to find secret spots without the tourist throngs. Discover the hidden gems of Paris the locals love.
1. Musée de Montmartre
Nestled on a hill in the 18th arrondissement, the Musée de Montmartre celebrates the area’s artistic heritage. Once home to many famous artists, this museum showcases paintings, documents, and artifacts documenting Montmartre’s bohemian past.
2. Le Marais
This trendy district in the 4th arrondissement is filled with art galleries, boutiques, restaurants, and cafés. Wander the cobblestone streets, grab a café crème at a sidewalk cafe, and soak in the charm. Check out the Musée Picasso and Musée Carnavalet, showcasing the history of Paris.
3. Canal Saint-Martin
In the 10th arrondissement, the Canal Saint-Martin is perfect for a bike ride or picnic. Lined with shops, restaurants, and cafés, the canal comes alive in summer. Rent a bike and pedal along the water, or sit by the canal with a panini from Du Pain et des Idées, one of the best bakeries in Paris.
4. Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
This huge park in the 19th arrondissement offers an escape from the city bustle. Climb to the top of the picturesque Temple of Sybil for panoramic city views. Relax on the grass, go boating on the lake, or have a picnic while enjoying the waterfalls, cliffs and greenery. The locals flock here on sunny weekends.
This Left Bank neighborhood is filled with cafés, bookshops, art galleries and boutiques. Sit at Les Deux Magots or Café de Flore, haunts of Hemingway and Picasso. Browse the bookstalls along the Seine or shop in the chic stores. In the evening, mingle with locals over an aperitif at a cozy bar. The ultimate insider spot.
The Best Kept Secrets of the French Riviera
If you want to experience the French Riviera like a local, you need to get off the beaten path. Beyond the glitz and glamor of Cannes and St. Tropez, there are hidden gems waiting to be discovered.
Just west of Antibes, Juan-les-Pins is a stylish yet laid-back beach town. Walk or bike the promenade lined with palm trees, soak in the sun at the beach, and enjoy an apéritif at one of the many outdoor cafés. After dark, the town comes alive with jazz at the Casino Juans-les-Pins.
For an escape from the crowds, head to Île Sainte-Marguerite, one of the Lérins Islands just off Cannes. Rent a bike to explore the car-free island, visit the 17th-century Fort Royal, picnic in the pine forest, or sunbathe on the beaches. The only way there is by ferry, so the island remains blissfully peaceful even in summer.
In the hills above the Gorges du Verdon, one of Europe’s most scenic canyons, sits the picturesque village of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie. Explore the cobbled lanes, shop for local pottery, and dine al fresco while enjoying sweeping views of the valley below. The star of the village is the 14th-century Notre Dame de Beauvoir church, seemingly floating in the sky at the top of a steep stairway.
Vallée des Merveilles
High in the Mercantour National Park, at nearly 7,000 feet altitude, lies one of France’s most mysterious places. The Vallée des Merveilles is an open-air gallery of Bronze Age rock carvings, some up to 3,000 years old. A hike through the valley reveals more than 4,000 rock engravings of human figures, animals, and abstract symbols. The meanings behind these prehistoric petroglyphs remain unknown, leaving you to ponder the ancient civilization that created them.