France is a mammoth-sized country known for its crown jewel, massive cities like the famous Paris in the north, the touristic beauty Marseille in the south and the hub of Lyon in the east. But scattered around France are tiny, quaint little villages straight out of a movie set and unknown to most tourists.
If you want to stroll through cobblestone streets, a baguette in one hand, ‘la pâte‘ (pastry) in the other, then check out these small towns in France the next time you’re traversing around Europe. I have been to a few of these ‘les petites villes’ (small towns) and have the most special memories from my time there.
If you’re rusty with your French, then be sure to download the Ling App to learn the basics before you go. Take a detour from big cities and explore these charming villages in rural France on your next European adventure!
Best Small Towns In France
1. Metz (1.5-Hour Train From Paris)
Metz is a small, affordable city in northeastern France known for its Gothic architecture, contemporary art museums, and stunning ‘le front de mer’ (promenades). I spent two days in this hidden gem town and felt like I was the star of a 1950s movie.
The scenery is tasteful, the medieval architecture beautiful, and the people lovely. It has a slow pace of life, and I felt extremely relaxed on my weekend here. As I strolled through the beautiful narrow alleys, I noticed everyone carrying a fresh baguette or a stunning bouquet of flowers. The people of Metz know how to enjoy the simple things in life.
Sights to see in Metz:
- Centre Pompidou Metz
- Porte des Allemands
- Metz Cathedral (huge flea market on Sundays)
- Fox Coffee Shop
- Temple Neuf
- Temple of Garnison
- Stroll along the Moselle River
- Explore on your own!
2. Eze (20-Minute Bus Ride From Nice)
If you are in the French Riviera, specifically Nice, you must visit Eze, a tiny medieval village atop a cliff. Only a short bus ride from the center of Nice, Eze is like stepping back in time. The medieval architecture has been carefully preserved for hundreds of years, and the stunning panoramic views in Eze’s idyllic ‘le jardin’ (garden) atop the cliff onto the Mediterranean Sea are unforgettable. Walk through the narrow cobbled streets and feel the magic in the air.
Eze is the south of France’s best-kept secret, and I highly recommend visiting this tiny hilltop village in southern France for a perfect day trip if you’re in the area.
Sights to see in Eze:
- Exotic Garden of Eze
- Walk through the Old Town and get lost in the cobblestone streets
- Markets & restaurants in the Old Town
3. Colmar (2.5-Hour Train Ride From Paris)
Colmar, France, in the Alsace region of France near Germany’s border, is a quintessential ‘conte de fées’ (fairytale) beauty. Every detail, every medieval, Germanic-style half-timbered houses, every flower pot, and ornately decorated storefront is pleasant to the eye.
I visited for two days and spent most of my time walking through the picturesque village, eating delicious French food, and sampling the local vineyard’s ‘vins de spécialité’ (specialty wines), Riesling, and Gewürztraminer. If you want an escape from the mundane realities of everyday life, then the dazzling town of Colmar should be on your list.
Sights to see in Colmar:
- Rent bikes and ride to surrounding vineyards and the town of Eguisheim
- Stroll through La Petite Venise (Little Venice)
- St. Martin’s Church
- Medieval town main square
- Wine tasting in the Alsace wine trail
- Pfister House
- Unterlinden Museum
- Famous Christmas Markets in December – if you go to Colmar in Christmas, then check out 15+ Best Common French Christmas Greetings.
4. Les Baux-de-Provence (2 Hour Drive From Provence)
Les Baux-de-Provence, commonly known as Baux, is a stunning, rugged village built into the Alpilles mountain region. This charming, small French town is brimming with culture and beauty, as it has many historic churches, chateaus, stone houses, and museums. All art lovers will be in their element in Baux.
If you’re visiting in the summertime, get lost in the famous ‘champs de lavande’ (lavender fields) that burst from the rich soil in the surrounding countryside. Baux is the perfect setting for a romantic rendezvous while enriching yourself with its vast history.
Sights to see in Les Baux-de Provence
- Carrières de Lumières
- Lavender fields
- Town center (only available by foot)
- Hôtels particuliers (art gallery / museums)
- Citadelle des Baux
- Les Baux History Museum
- Explore wine cellars in the village town
5. Chamonix (1 Hour Drive From Geneva)
Calling all outdoors lovers! Officially called Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, Chamonix is a breathtaking, famous skiing town nestled at the crossroads of mountains in France, Italy, and Switzerland. The village itself is at the base of Mont Blanc in the French Alps, and cable cars take visitors up to the stunning panoramic peaks year-round, not just in winter. Backcountry skiing is exceptionally accessible, attracting skiers from around the world.
But don’t worry if you’re not a skier. Chamonix is one of the best places in France to ‘escalade de rocher’ (rock climb), ‘randonnée’ (hike), ‘vélo de montagne’ (mountain biking), and ‘parapente’ (paraglide). Go here to unwind from life and breathe in that crisp Alpine air.
- Tour de Mont Blanc (hiking trails)
- Tramway du Mont Blanc
- Chamonix Village
- Mer de Glace
- Le Brévent
- Col de Balme
About Ready To Pack Your Bags?
These five charming small towns in France are a must-see for your time in this magnificent country. Getting away from big cities and visiting more local places is refreshing and necessary to experience local culture. These adorable small villages in France are sure to elevate your trip and infuse it with beauty, nature, culture, and love. So take a detour and check them out – you will not be disappointed!
Want To Refresh Your French Skills Before Your Big Trip?
If you want to learn more of the basics of the French language, check out #1 Guide: How To Ask For & Give Directions In French and Introduce Yourself In French In 7 Best Ways!
The best way to discover local culture, especially in small towns and villages, is to interact with the people there! What better way to do that than to speak the native language? The people will greatly appreciate it. There is no better feeling in the world than successfully having a conversation with a local in their native language. If your French is bumpy at best, download the Ling App to freshen up your skills before your big trip.