When we think of France, the Eiffel Tower is usually the first thing to come to mind, fed by further images of Montparnasse as depicted in the visually stunning film, Amélie. Paris is often the star of the show in our French fantasies. It’s true that there are so many sights and cultural opportunities in the ‘City of Lights’ that one could fill many trips delving into it, and we at Auto Europe definitely don’t discourage this. However, if our clients are looking to get off the beaten path a little, that doesn’t discount France at all! France is a large and diverse nation, with so many unique and charming cities! Here are our favorite overlooked and underrated cities in France:
If you have ever wanted to see a rock concert in a legitimate Roman amphitheater, you can do this in Lyon! Both historic and bustling, this cheerful destination is cultural and vibrant. Lyon is the home to multiple UNESCO sights and well-preserved historic districts to view and study. Be sure to see Vieux Lyon, a pristine Renaissance courtyard, and catch a glimpse into early film history at the Museum of Miniatures and Film sets. After all, cinema was born in Lyon, by the Lumiere brothers!
Founded by Phoenicians in 600BC, the port city of Marseilles is one of the oldest cities in Europe, and it’s got the crumbling remains in the Musée des Docks to prove it. Today, it’s a lovely and thriving city with a population of roughly a million, and a long-held tradition of diverse populations coinciding. This makes Marseilles a coolly cosmopolitan city by the sea, where visitors will savor the lively markets, rugged coastline, and the splendid historic buildings. Two must-sees are the stately Palais Longchamp and the Notre Dame de la Garde, a wonderful example of Gothic architecture. Spend a little time strolling along the port districts and take your rental car to see the charming nearby fishing villages. Marseilles also has a lively nightlife and restaurant scene that features an incredible blend of Mediterranean culinary styles.
The wine and food connoisseur must travel to Bordeaux! With a traditionally laid-back vibe, Bordeaux is the perfect place to go if your travel goals involve indulgence and relaxation. While this town is referred to as ‘Little Paris,’ and the similarities can be seen in the luxurious Gambetta Square, there is also a somewhat English vibe, due to a long history of British occupation. It’s a blast to roll around the countryside of Bordeaux with a rental car, exploring vineyards and villages. If you head west, you will meet the Atlantic Ocean, where you will be able to pair your favorite vintage with fresh oysters!
The European Parliament is based in Strasbourg, the unofficial capital of the European Union. This international city lies right on the border between Germany and France, and features a delightful blend between these cultures and cuisines! Explore the incredibly story-book neighborhoods and stunning buildings, which include the 12th century cathedral and the Palais des Rohan, which houses the Museum of Fine Arts! You and your companions will be overjoyed by the comfortable amenities in Strasbourg after days of exploring this picturesque town and the sampling both French wines and German ales!
The prosperous and lovely little city of Aix en Provence is said to have more than one thousand fountains. While I have not taken the opportunity yet to confirm this with my own census, I can recommend a visit to the largest one, the celebrated Cours Mirabeau, right in the city center. It is uniquely mossy, and fed by an actual hot spring, but the avenue that it adorns is considered to be one of the most beautiful in the world. This is a great city to spend a few days exploring by foot (summer is one of the best times of year to visit France), browsing the high end boutiques, photographing the architecture, or musing over the later works of the painter, Cezanne. Being so close to Marsailles, a rental car in Aix-en-Provence gives the opportunity to see as much as you would like of both of these great towns!
If you’re looking for a small city that is rich in medieval charm, book a rental car in Avignon! As a temporary papal sanctuary in the 14th century, The Papal Palace is an incredible example of stone castle-work, with fantastic turrets and spires. Add to that the ancient ruins of Pont d’Avignon, and you are sure to find abundant historic charm! In the shops, you will find locally sources lavender products and fantastic cheese, pastries and olive oils. While the inhabitants are sophisticated and modern, Avignon is a perfect destination for a peaceful and relaxing vacation, filled with simple pleasures and sightseeing.
We at Auto Europe look forward to hearing from you. For more than 56 years, we have specialized in helping people navigate their dream destinations in comfortable and stylish rental cars. We service rentals through only the most reputable suppliers and are proud to provide each client with award-winning customer service. You can reach us toll-free at our 24/7 reservation line by calling 1-888-223-5555.