With the City of Lights, Paris, being one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, too many people overlook the other much smaller and much more charming towns in France.
Even when you think of France, you’re probably thinking of the picturesque Eiffel Tower, or dreaming of walking down the Champs-Élysées towards the magnificent Arc De Triomphe.
If you’re anything like me when it comes to travel then you’re always on the lookout for places that are a little less touristy and more off-the-beaten-path than the packed and crowded capitals or tourist hotspots.
Thankfully, France is dotted in quaint towns that never really get the recognition, or Instagram fame, that they deserve!
The Most Picturesque Small Towns and Villages in France
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of beautiful little villages throughout the different regions in France, all of which have their own unique qualities and redeeming features that make them worth visiting.
With Paris you get iconic building after building, crowds, and urban cityscape for as far as the eye can see.
With the rest of France you get to explore incredible coastal villages, historic towns nestled in the foothills of the alps, and smaller cities where you can truly experience the French way of life.
For your next trip, considering visiting some of the following small towns in France to get a little more off-the-beaten-path and to enjoy a much more unique traveling experience!
Situated right on Lake Annecy, the small town of Annecy itself is easily accessible from Paris and makes for a great city-break all year round.
With mountains looming overhead and one of Europe’s most beautiful lakes right on the doorstep of town, Annecy is a great place to spend a day or two diving right into French culture and learning more about the history of the Savoie region.
During the warmer summer months you can spend your days swimming in Lake Annecy and your nights wondering around the medieval town center.
This is another one of the French towns known as “Little Venice”, thanks to the series of canals that run through the town, and if you get the chance definitely try to go on a canal tour, especially if you’re hoping for a more romantic experience.
Reaching Annecy from Paris is really easy and it’s just under 4 hours away by train.
For those of you looking for somewhere a little bit more off the beaten path in France, the lovely small village of Perouges is where you’re going to want to head to next.
The medieval walled town of Perouges is located just Northeast of Lyon, so this gives you two more places that you can explore in the country apart from spending all of your time in Paris.
This town has been used as a setting for a variety of different movies and television series over the years, especially those that focus on a more medieval storyline.
It’s easy to see why when you’re walking through the stone archways and wandering along the old medieval wall that surrounds much of the town center.
During the Spring and Summer there are quite a few different festivals held in Perouges, and it can actually get quite busy during those times, so if you’re looking for a more private getaway experience I would actually recommend visiting in the fall.
This way you’ll pretty much have the entire time to yourself and you also get to enjoy the beautiful fall foliage as it starts to take over the French countryside.
Reaching Perouges from Paris requires a stopover in Lyon, but otherwise it’s just two easy train trips to get to the town.
Eguisheim is a quaint little village tucked away in the Alsace region of France.
It’s well-known for its wine and since 2003 it has consistently been ranked as one of the most beautiful villages in the country.
Despite its stunning beauty and delicious wine, Eguisheim never really gets too busy, even during the high tourist season, so you can spend your visit wandering through the medieval town layout without worrying about bumping into crowds of people.
A stop in Eguisheim and you’re bound to be impressed by the brightly colored houses that make it such a unique destination, and if you’re visiting during the spring or summer months then you’ll be able to see the town covered in flowers and plants of all different colors and styles.
The town is located on the popular Alsatian Wine Route, so make sure to stop by one of the many cellars, wine bars, or vineyards in the center to taste some amazing local wine.
As for accessibility, it’s really easy to reach Eguisheim with a rental car. Otherwise, you’ll need to get to Colmar from Paris and then hop on a local bus.
Colmar is just a 3-hour train trip from Paris, making it a popular choice for locals and tourists looking to escape the busy touristy capital.
This brightly colored town is actually the capital of the entire Alsace wine region, and this is where you can taste some of the best wines made across all of France.
Not only is the wine delicious, but the prices for a full bottle or even a glass at a local wine cellar are quite reasonable, even for the most budget-minded travelers.
Apart from the wine, Colmar is also most well-known for its brightly colored medieval timber-frame houses and the city comes alive with flowers during the spring and summer months, arguably the best time to visit.
The town itself is known as “Little Venice”, one of the many small towns in France to earn this title, and that’s because of the picturesque canals that run right through the heart of the town center.
Even at the peak of tourist season, Colmar is still relatively quiet, and you can have the entire place to yourself if you visit early in the day or late at night after the tourist buses leave.
Reaching Colmar is very easy and from Paris it’s just a 3-hour train ride.
The lovely town of Lourmarin is home to an impressive Renaissance Castle dating back to the fifteenth century as well as for its well-preserved medieval stone-built town center area.
Along with the castle, there are also quite a few incredible churches throughout the town, making for some great photo opportunities for those of you that love medieval architecture and unique cityscapes.
The town itself is full of quite a few different cafes, small shops, and quaint little restaurants, so you can easily spend the day wandering through the narrow streets, getting lost in the hidden alleyways, and enjoying some French wine or local cuisine at your leisure.
What I really like about Lourmarin is that it’s also quite close to another beautiful town, Aix-en-Provence, and those of you on a road trip across France will be able to explore some of the lovely surrounding countryside as well.
Getting to Lourmarin from Paris is going to take the better part of a day, with two trains involved as well as a short bus ride. You’re going to have to transfer in Lyon, so consider spending a day or two there before moving on.