The 15 Most Underrated Cities in France to Visit in 2023

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Are you looking for the most underrated cities in France? Are you tired of tourists flooding the same places, crowding out locals, and making it hard to really experience French culture? While cities like Paris and Lyon often take center stage, countless overlooked towns deserve to be explored.

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Based on the information from travelers who visited France and shared their knowledge with Giving Getaway, I compiled a list of 15 of the most underrated cities in France that you should put on your must-visit list. By the way, just in case you didn’t know, I wrote a bunch of other posts where I explore underrated cities in Italy, Germany, the Balkans, the United States, and many more countries.

But now, let’s get ready to explore these French hidden gems and discover why they are some of the most underrated cities in France!

1) Lille

When you think of France, the first cities that come to mind are likely Paris, Marseille, and Lyon. But there are many cities worthy of your attention, and one of those cities is Lille. This underrated gem is an absolute must-see for anyone who wants to experience the best of French culture.

Located in northern France, near the border with Belgium, this vibrant city has a lot to offer. From its stunning architecture to its incredible food scene, Lille will captivate you from the moment you arrive. It’s also great for those looking for a more laid-back atmosphere than Paris – perfect if you want something a little calmer.Lille Is a Cosmopolitan City With a Lively Cultural Scene

Though small, Lille packs a punch when it comes to sightseeing. The city center is full of gorgeous old buildings like the Palais des Beaux Arts, one of the finest art museums in France. You’ll also find plenty of charming cobblestone streets, lined with quaint cafes and restaurants serving up traditional French dishes.

Those looking for a bit of nightlife won’t be disappointed either. Lille boasts some of the hottest clubs around, as well as numerous bars and pubs to choose from. And if you’re feeling daring, why not try one of the city’s famous microbreweries? With so much to do, it’s no wonder Lille is quickly becoming one of the most exciting cities in France.

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2) Angers

Angers is a picturesque city nestled in the heart of the Loire Valley. While it often gets overshadowed by its neighboring cities such as Nantes and Tours, Angers offers plenty of cultural and historical attractions that make it a must-see destination.

Most notably, you can explore the Château d’Angers – a 9th-century fortress that proudly displays one of the world’s largest tapestries depicting the story of The Apocalypse from John’s Book of Revelation.Angers Is a Charming Town and One of the Most Underrated Cities in France

Its old town retraces centuries gone by through idyllic half-timbered houses lined along narrow cobbled streets filled with bustling markets full of life, while nearby vineyards provide some exquisite wines from France’s renowned Loire Valley region.

In addition to its historic sites, Angers also boasts a lively cultural scene with numerous museums, galleries, and theatres for tourists to enjoy.



3) Colmar

Colmar, located in the heart of Alsace’s renowned wine region, is a romantic and captivating destination not to be overlooked. Strolling through its cobblestoned streets with colorful half-timbered houses along the canals will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.

In terms of history and culture, a must-visit attraction is the Unterlinden Museum which holds some of Europe’s most impressive pieces from medieval times to modern-day artistry. Among these works stands out Matthias Grünewald’s exquisite Isenheim Altarpiece.Colmar Is a Picturesque Town in the Heart of Alsace

But not only does Colmar offer an abundance of history but it also boasts one of France’s best wines – crafted within its vineyards! The cuisine is just as remarkable with dishes that bring together French and German flavors for a truly unique culinary experience.

All in all, few places manage to combine culture, art, and gastronomy so beautifully as Colmar does – making it an absolute must-visit for any traveler wanting to explore France at its core.

4) Bayonne

Located in the Basque Country of southwestern France, Bayonne is an often-overlooked yet picturesque and colorful city. Bursting with energy, lively festivals, and delicious cuisine, it’s no surprise that this destination should be on every traveler’s bucket list.

One of the city’s main attractions is the Cathedral of Saint Mary, a 13th-century Gothic masterpiece that stands tall as a crown jewel amongst all other attractions. Additionally, you can explore the captivating Basque Museum for a journey into the region’s culture and history.Bayonne Is a Hidden Gem in the Basque Country

But perhaps most notable are Bayonne’s sweet treats! Chocolate has been produced here since the 17th century, allowing you to partake in some delicious indulgences from one of many local chocolatiers or boutiques across town. 

Bayonne is overflowing with rich history and culture paired with culinary delights, making it truly deserving of recognition when considering any French getaway plan!

5) Strasbourg

Strasbourg is one of the most underrated cities in France. It’s an incredibly beautiful city with a unique history and culture that often gets overlooked by tourists. Despite its small size, Strasbourg packs a powerful punch when it comes to interesting sites, activities, and experiences.

When it comes to statistics, Strasbourg stands out as a leader. The city boasts the highest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites per capita compared to any other French city, with three located within the city limits. This includes the historical center of Grande Île, which is considered the largest urban island in Europe. Additionally, the entire city center is a car-free zone.Strasbourg Is a Charming and Multicultural City at the Crossroads of Europe

For those who love nature, Strasbourg is full of lush parks and gardens. One of the best areas to explore is the Parc de l’Orangerie. This stunning park features a large lake, numerous walking paths, and plenty of outdoor activities. If you’re looking for something a little more active, there are also some great cycling routes around the city.

The cultural offerings in Strasbourg are just as impressive. There’s the renowned University of Strasbourg, which has been ranked among the top universities in the world. Plus, there are dozens of museums, galleries, and monuments to discover. And don’t forget about the incredible cuisine!

6) Bourges

Bourges is one of those little-known French cities that often get overlooked by tourists, but it’s well worth a visit! Just four hours south of Paris and situated along the river Yevre, Bourges is an enchanting city with plenty to offer. Its cobbled streets, historic monuments, and quaint cafés give Bourges an undeniable charm that can’t be found anywhere else in France.

The city is home to some incredible sights including the Palais Jacques Coeur, a stunning Gothic building that dates back to the 15th century. The Cathédrale Saint Etienne is another must-see; its remarkable stained-glass windows are simply breathtaking. For art lovers, there’s the Musée du Berry which houses works from local artists such as François Boucher, Jean-Baptiste Oudry, and Antoine Watteau.Bourges Is an Underrated Medieval City in Central France

And if you’re looking for something more leisurely, Bourges has plenty of green spaces perfect for picnics or just taking a stroll. There are also some lovely parks where children can play and relax. Don’t forget to check out the Jardin des Simples, a beautiful garden filled with medicinal plants.

With its picturesque scenery, delicious cuisine, and fascinating history, this underrated city should be at the top of your list!



7) Dijon

Dijon is often overlooked when it comes to exploring France, but this charming city has so much to offer! Located in the eastern part of the country, Dijon is bursting with culture, history, and delicious cuisine.

When you visit Dijon, make sure to explore some of its historic sites, like the old Town Hall, the Ducal Palace, and the city’s most iconic landmark, the Place de la Liberation. Dijon also boasts many wonderful museums, including the Fine Arts Museum, which houses work from great masters such as Monet and Renoir.Dijon Is One of the Most Underrated Cities in France

One of the best things about Dijon though is its culinary delights. From traditional French dishes to modern fusion cuisine, there’s something for everyone here. Don’t forget to try their famous mustard—it’s truly one-of-a-kind!

There’s plenty to do year-round, whether it’s strolling through the cobblestone streets or attending one of the many festivals throughout the summer, making it the perfect destination for a relaxing getaway.

8) Grenoble

Grenoble is a city that often gets overlooked in France, but it’s one of the most underrated cities in all of Europe. The stunning scenery and rich history make Grenoble an ideal destination for travelers seeking something special.

The city is nestled between two mountain ranges – the Chartreuse and Vercors Mountains – giving it a unique landscape, unlike any other French city. From the top of these mountains, you can see a breathtaking view of the entire valley, including the crystal-clear waters of the Isère River as it winds through the city.Grenoble Is a Dynamic City Nestled in the French Alps

Grenoble also has a deep cultural heritage that dates back centuries. It was once home to some of France’s most influential intellectuals, such as mathematician Joseph Fourier and philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Today, the streets of the city are lined with baroque architecture, reflecting its long and prosperous past.

At the same time, Grenoble is still very much alive and buzzing with activity, with cafes, bars, and restaurants filling up late into the night. With its stunning natural beauty and historic charm, this underrated city will surely leave you feeling inspired.



9) La Rochelle

Have you ever considered visiting La Rochelle? This underrated French city is a hidden gem that should not be overlooked! Situated among the Atlantic coast of western France, La Rochelle boasts beautiful beaches, stunning architecture, and a relaxing atmosphere.

The city’s old-world charm is evident in its cobblestone streets, picturesque bridges, and historical buildings. From the 14th century Tour de la Lanterne to the 17th century Porte Royale, there are plenty of monuments and landmarks to explore in La Rochelle. The city also has multiple museums and art galleries, where visitors can learn about the area’s rich history.La Rochelle Is a Beautiful Coastal City With a Rich Maritime History

For those who love the outdoors, La Rochelle offers many scenic coastal trails for hiking and other activities such as sailing, kayaking, and stand-up paddle boarding. For the adventurous traveler, the nearby Ile de Ré offers more exciting outdoor opportunities such as bike tours, bird watching, and horseback riding.

La Rochelle is also home to some incredible restaurants. Sample the local cuisine at one of the charming cafés on the harbor front or treat yourself to some gastronomic delights at one of the city’s fine dining establishments. Whether it’s seafood, French classics, or modern fusion dishes, La Rochelle has something for every taste.

10) Montpellier

Montpellier is a hidden gem that should be on everyone’s travel list. With its mix of history and modern culture, this city has something for everyone.

The old town dates back to medieval times and still houses some beautiful buildings from that era. You can take a stroll along cobblestone streets and admire the unique designs. It’s worth taking a few hours to appreciate the beauty of the past.Montpellier Is One of the Most Underrated Cities in France

On the other hand, Montpellier also offers plenty of modern amenities. There are trendy shops, cafes, and restaurants everywhere you look. You’ll find top-notch cuisine, as well as local delicacies like saucisson and olive tapenade. Plus, there’s an abundance of art galleries, museums, and music venues to explore.

And if you’re looking to relax, there are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy as well. From vineyards to beaches, you won’t have any trouble finding somewhere to kick back and soak up the sun.

11) Nancy

If you’re looking for a little-known destination in France with lots to offer, then Nancy is the place for you! This underrated gem of a city has plenty going on and offers an authentic French experience that will keep you coming back for more. From its historical architecture and world-renowned gastronomy to its vibrant culture and bustling nightlife, there’s something for everyone in Nancy.

The history of this city is evident from the moment you arrive. Be sure to take some time to explore the old town, which features beautiful buildings like the magnificent Place Stanislas and the stunning Palais du Gouvernement. Whether you want to wander through cobblestone alleys or admire impressive monuments, Nancy certainly doesn’t disappoint when it comes to sightseeing.Nancy Is a Stunning City Known for Its Art Nouveau Architecture

For those who love food, you’ll find yourself in culinary heaven here. The restaurants serve up delicious dishes inspired by traditional recipes, while the local markets provide an array of fresh produce at unbeatable prices. A must-try is the quiche lorraine – a savory tart made with bacon, onions, and cheese. It’s guaranteed to tantalize your taste buds!

Nancy also boasts a thriving cultural scene with numerous art galleries and museums, as well as music venues, theaters, and clubs. So if you’re looking for a great night out, you won’t be disappointed. You can also spend some time enjoying nature with a stroll along the riverbanks or relaxing in one of the many parks.

12) Poitiers

Poitiers is a peaceful paradise, full of French flair and fun. Located in the west-central part of France, Poitiers is an underrated gem that’s often overlooked by travelers. It’s home to some of the country’s most breathtaking scenery and fascinating cultural attractions. From its Renaissance architecture to its vibrant nightlife, there’s something for everyone in this charming city.

The streets of Poitiers are alive with history and culture. The old town center boasts colorful facades, cobblestone alleys, and quaint cafes—a perfect backdrop for a romantic stroll. For those seeking more active pursuits, the nearby countryside offers plenty of opportunities for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. There are also lovely parks and gardens to explore, as well as excellent museums and art galleries.Poitiers Is an Ancient Town and One of the Most Underrated Cities in France

And when it comes to entertainment, Poitiers has it all. Its lively bars and clubs offer music and dancing late into the night, while its numerous restaurants serve up delicious regional dishes.

Poitiers’ beauty may be overshadowed by more popular destinations, but it still deserves attention. Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or a bit of both, this hidden gem won’t disappoint. With so much to see and do, one visit just isn’t enough!



13) Rouen

Rouen is an often-overlooked gem in France. It’s a city that has the potential to provide visitors with everything they need, but it doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves. Rouen is known for its beautiful medieval architecture, cobbled streets, and stunning churches. The Cathédrale Notre Dame de Rouen is especially impressive – built between 1201 and 1439, it is one of the most iconic landmarks in France.

Aside from its historical significance, there are plenty of other things to do and see in Rouen. Its vibrant atmosphere makes it a great place to explore the local cuisine, shop, or simply take in the sights.Rouen Is a Picturesque City Famous for Its Gothic Cathedral

Take a stroll along the river Seine or just enjoy the lively café culture in the main square. All these activities can make Rouen feel like an undiscovered paradise for travelers looking for something unique and off the beaten path.

It may be overlooked by many, but Rouen holds a special place in the hearts of those who have visited. So why not take a detour and experience all that Rouen has to offer? You might be surprised at what you find!

14) Toulouse                       

Toulouse is a city full of hidden gems and surprises! This underrated French gem is often overlooked by travelers, but it has a lot to offer. From its vibrant culture and beautiful architecture to the delicious food and friendly locals, Toulouse has something for everyone.

It’s no surprise that this city was once home to some of France’s most influential figures like Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of The Little Prince. In fact, the city was even nicknamed “The Pink City” in honor of its terracotta brick buildings and ancient churches.Toulouse Is One of the Most Underrated Cities in France

When it comes to attractions, Toulouse offers plenty. Its old town is filled with narrow cobblestone streets lined with quaint cafes, restaurants, and boutiques. You can also explore the city’s many parks and gardens or visit one of the many historical sites such as the Basilica of St. Sernin.

And whether you want to experience the lively bars and clubs of Place du Capitole or just relax with a glass of wine at one of the many outdoor terraces, there’s something for everyone in Toulouse.

15) Nantes

Nantes is a hidden gem of France that all too often goes unnoticed, despite its array of attractions. This underrated city has something for everyone. With plenty of museums, galleries, and monuments to visit, Nantes will leave you with plenty of stories to tell your friends back home.

The foodie scene in Nantes is particularly noteworthy: seafood lovers can find delicious dishes made with freshly caught fare from the Loire River, while those seeking something sweet should head to the famous La Cigale confectionery. And don’t forget about the local wines; they may be lesser known than their Bordeaux counterparts, but they have just as much character and flavor.Nantes Is a Green and Creative City With a Rich Cultural Heritage

For outdoor enthusiasts, there’s plenty to do in Nantes. The parks are lush and green, perfect for an afternoon stroll. If you want to get out on the water, rent a boat or kayak and make your way down the river. Or if you’d rather stay on land, why not explore the nearby forests, beaches, and villages?

No matter what type of traveler you are, Nantes won’t disappoint. From its unique cuisine to its lively atmosphere, this French city has more to offer than meets the eye. So the next time you plan a vacation, consider adding Nantes to your itinerary—you won’t regret it!



Conclusion

France is known for its world-famous cities like Paris and Marseille, but there is so much more to explore in this beautiful country. This list of the 15 most underrated cities in France showcases the hidden gems that are waiting to be discovered.

From the medieval town of Bourges to the vibrant city of Montpellier, each destination has its unique charm and character. So why not step off the beaten path and explore these lesser-known but equally captivating cities? You won’t regret it!

And if you would like to find more underrated places around the world, feel free to check my other blog posts. There you can find the most underrated cities in Italy, Germany, the Balkans, the United States, and many more countries!

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