There’s more to what France has to offer than the usual favourites like Paris or Provence. Discover these hidden spots for a different way of travelling and explore new sights to see as Singapore opens up its borders

It’s hard to find a travel itinerary in France that doesn’t repeat the same big cities, the day trips to Versailles or unwinding in Saint Tropez. After nearly two years of living with travel restrictions, take the opportunity to visit the country with fresh eyes and sights set on the off-the-beaten-path experiences. 

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1. Eguisheim, Alsace

A short drive from Colmar, immerse yourself into the colourful town of Eguisheim, at the heart of the Alsatian wine route. There’s a good reason why Eguisheim is also known as one of the “Most Beautiful Villages in France”. Strolling down the winding streets and passing by brightly coloured old houses with pointed roofs and timber-framed façades feels nothing short of a storybook experience. Delve into the magic of Christmas in this enchanting medieval village’s Christmas market, with festive food and warm spicy wine to indulge in. 

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2. Giverny, Normandy

Seeing the works of impressionist Claude Monet in the museums of Paris is a definite treat for the eyes, so why not take the time to see the inspiration behind the master’s craft. Just outside of Paris, Giverny is where Monet decided to spend the end of his life, producing countless famous works such as the water lilies series. The artist’s former home and elaborate gardens are, no less, works of art on their own. Visit the Foundation Claude Monet to see how the artist lived and worked, and gaze across his water garden to see some familiar motifs from his paintings. The Foundation opens as early as the end of March, and remains open until November 1.

3. Menton, Côte d’Azur

If you’re one for warmer winters, this sun-drenched city in the Mediterranean, which happens to be 3 degrees warmer than the rest of France, is your go-to. Menton is lovingly called “lemon country” for its famous lemons and festival, but also for the warm rich hues of the houses that line the streets. The best of both worlds, the cuisine is noticeably Italian-influenced, being so close to the border and once having been under the Republic of Genoa. Take in the sun, the sea and a glimpse of the Alps when you walk along the Promenade du Soleil from the beach to the old town. 

4. Montbard, Côte-d'Or

A modest yet charming town on the banks of the Brenne River, Montbard speaks to the history buffs and hiking enthusiasts in all of us. Home to one of the oldest Cistercian abbeys in Europe, Abbaye de Fontanay was one of the first monuments to be inscribed on the Unesco world heritage list. The Abbey’s lush gardens might be familiar to French film fans, as the 1990 version of Cyrano de Bergerac with Gérard Depardieu was shot here. 

5. Rocamadour, Dordogne Valley

The sacred pilgrimage clifftop village of Rocamadour, another Unesco world heritage site on the list, boasts soaring heights that make you feel a little closer to the celestial beings in the clouds. This mystical town has seven chapels carved into the cliffside overlooking the Alzou river, where you can take 216 steps of up the grand escalier to see the Cité Réligieuse complex of religious buildings. Indulge in the incredible landmarks such as the Black Madonna in the Chapelle Notre-Dame. You may even have the chance to witness the mysterious ancient bell that tolls all by itself when a miracle occurs at sea. 

6. Grande Dune du Pilat, Arcachon Bay

It’s not just the Middle East that dazzles its visitors with rolling sand dunes. The Dune du Pilat is the tallest sand dune in Europe, and its grandeur will leave you speechless. Soaring at 100 and 115 metres tall depending on the year, the view gets better once you’re at the top. A panoramic view of the Atlantic Ocean, an enormous pine forest, the Arcachon Bay, a sandbank and a peninsula!

7. Cap Ferret, Nouvelle-Aquitaine

At the summit of the Dune du Pilat, you’re likely to glance upon the headland of Le Cap Ferret, a coastal marvel. With the Atlantic ocean in the west and the Arcachon basin in the east, you are spoiled for choice for sea views and beach-side dining. This little town supplies all of France with its oysters, so don’t miss this culinary experience right from the catch. Live the French life as you unwind with wine-soaked dinners and an exclusive view of miles of unfettered ocean. 

8. Nîmes, Occitanie

When in France, do as the... Romans do? Nîmes was an important outpost of the Roman Empire, which is why you might find many similarities between this French city and the Italian capital. From the Arena to one of the best-preserved Roman temples in the world, Nîmes is a collection of experiences that transport you in time and geography. Don’t miss the Pont Du Gard, the highest standing Roman aqueduct in the world just outside of Nîmes, to truly witness a crucial part of Roman history. 

9. Riquewihr, Alsace

If you’re fond of the sweeter white wines of Alsace, head to Riquewihr, a medieval town right in the heart of the Alsatian vineyards. Called “The Gem of the Alsace Vineyards”, the old town wine experience is one to write home about. Riquewihr is speckled with colourful half-timbered houses and fronts decorated with old shop signs. Explore the architectural wonders of the town, immerse yourself in the culture vigneronne and then settle into the cosy old-world charm of this Alsatian town. 

10. Massif de l’Esterel, Côte d’Azur

Côte d’Azur is peppered with glittering beaches, but for a more unique experience, visit the Mediterranean volcanic mountain range in the French Riviera. The Estérel Massif was first attached to Africa, and only separated from the continent during the formation of the Mediterranean, which led to the birth of Corsica as well! Hike, bike or ride on horseback along the jagged skyline of the Massif, with the Mediterranean on one side and limestone Provence on the other. The turquoise Mediterranean, red volcanic soil and green shrubs make this a picture-perfect landscape. 

11. Beaune, Burgundy

Burgundy is known for its world-famous wines, but before you set your sights on the capital, Dijon, it’s Beaune you don’t want to miss. This quaint town is the well-kept secret for cobblestone strolls and tasting wines in secretive cellars. Go vineyard hopping in Volnay, a short 15-minute drive from the town, where you can dive into the rich history behind the region’s famed wines. Fun fact: Beaune is just as much a wine aficionado’s hotspot as it is a mustard maven’s, so take the chance to visit the Beaune craft family Fallot’s Moutarderie and museum. 

12. Collioure, Pyrénées-Orientales

Just 25km from the Spanish border is a small Mediterranean town where the French and Catalan cultures collide, and this is Collioure. This little coastal town is a kaleidoscope of colour which has attracted several notable artists such as Paul Signac in the late 19th century, followed by Matisse in the early 20th century, and even Dali and Picasso later on. Largely undiscovered by the throngs of tourists scattering around the Mediterranean, you get an exclusive and intimate experience in the pearl of the Vermillion Coast. 

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