Amazing Off-The-Radar Experiences In France

European mega-metropolises such as Paris, Rome, London and Berlin are stunning, but the huge crowds take a lot of their charm away. The French capital is the fifth most visited city in the world, according to a Euromonitor report. Luckily for the audacious traveler, France still has many lesser-known and underexplored towns, villages, mountains, and parks that offer some of nature's finest.

Paris Sewer Museum

People interested in engineering and urban development will love this museum, located in the sewers beneath the Quai d'Orsay on the Left Bank. Sewers have been draining wastewater in Paris since the beginning of the 13th century, according to Europe for Visitors. They also carried tourists until recently  — first by carts that were suspended from the walkways along the tunnel walls, then by carriages drawn by a small locomotive, and — until the 1970s — in boats.


This is a destination for people who love beach and water activities. The list of possible outdoor adventures in this small paradise is endless — diving, swimming, sailing, and sliding sports. Walk, climb and challenge by pursuing mountain biking, horse trekking and quad biking. Later, escape the crowds at the stunning white-sand Saleccia Beach, but be ready to walk a tiny route with thorny bushes.

Millau Viaduct

This is one of the world's most gorgeous bridges. The cable-stayed structure is actually taller than the Eiffel Tower — 1,125 feet. This is one of the tallest bridge constructions in the world. It's sometimes used for extreme sports such as base jumping or rappelling. The bridge spans the Tarn River Valley in southern France.

Chateau de Vaux le Vicomte

The stunning baroque French château is located in Maincy, about 35 miles southeast of Paris. The castle and the surrounding gardens are equally majestic as the palace at Versailles, minus the crowds. Spanning nearly 1,235 acres, the estate forms a unique ensemble. The streams, forests, and back alleys of the land offer an excitingly diverse and unusual alternative to other famous attractions. The iconic Formal Gardens are carved from 100 acres of woodlands.

Dune du Pilat

How about spicing up your vacation and climbing what has becomes the largest sand dune in Europe? Did you even know it existed? No one can blame you. The 351 feet tall dune near Bordeaux, with a volume of and 60 million cubic meters of sand, is nestled between the Atlantic Ocean, an enormous pine forest, the Arcachon Bay, a sandbank, and a peninsula. The dune is sometimes described as a "menacing sand wall" or even called a "sand monster" swallowing up parts of France.  

Moustiers Sainte-Marie

France is famous for having many small and charming towns that looks like they are from a fairytale, and Moustiers Sainte-Marie has to be among the most charming. It has an exceptional setting surrounded by a lake and lavender fields. The village is famous for its rich history in ceramic craftsmanship. You can see breathtaking examples of that everywhere. You can also join many ceramics workshops to learn more.


This beautiful commune in the countryside is located in the Luberon, at the foot of the Monts de Vaucluse. Nationwide, it is known as one of the most impressive villages in the entire country. Roussillon sits in the heart of one of the biggest ochre deposits in the world and is known for its splendid red cliffs and ochre quarries. The contrasting colors of red, yellow, and brown soils and lush green pine trees are breathtaking.

Jura Mountains

The Jura Mountains are a system of ranges extending for 225 miles in an arc on both sides of the Franco-Swiss border from the Rhône River, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. The highest peaks include Crêt de la Neige (5,636 feet) and Le Reculet (5,633 feet), both in France. Villages are found in abundance, especially in the valleys, while larger cities are almost entirely on the margins.


Tarascon is about 15 miles south of Avignon and lies on the east side of the Rhône River. The busy town, famous for the towered castle on the bank of the river that dates from the 15th century, has charming narrow medieval streets and sun-filled squares with all kinds of plants. The castle was once used as a prison, but has been restored and now holds fine 17th century tapestries, according to Europe Up Close. Tarascon is renowned for producing the iconic, colorful fabrics of Provence.

Musée Marmottan Monet

The Louvre is a stunning and overwhelming museum. A nice alternative, if you want to see Impressionist paintings without waiting hours in line, is the Musee Mamottan Monet. It houses one of the Paris' largest Impressionism collections: 100 of Claude Monet's masterpieces (from "Impression, Sunrise" to the famous water lilies) as well as numerous works from the artist's personal collection.


The sports industry calls Annecy the "European capital of outdoor sports." Forget about Paris and shopping, and reconnect with nature by discovering the thrill of paragliding, swimming, sailing, water skiing, diving, cycling, hiking, mountain biking, and even skiing in the winter. The nightlife won't disappoint (that is if you have any energy left) — there are plenty of bars, nightclubs and fashionable places to hang out.

Belleville in Paris

This is the place where young people and artists love to go and spend time. Experience authentic Parisian dining at its best without the elitist atmosphere. Belleville hosts the trendiest eateriesn the city. "Belleville can come across a bit rough and ready on arrival, but when you get into it you'll be pleasantly surprised. Lots of great bars full of regulars and students," a review on TripAdvisor says.


Go for a bike tour through Provence when the lavender is in bloom. There's much more you can do in this beautiful city in southern France. Take part in its many popular gourmet events. Going to a vineyard or a wine cellar should be on your must-do list. The wine-growing countryside of the fairly small Aix Region has a variety of distinct climate types — mountain, plains, and plateau — giving wines produced there distinct characteristics.


Expect to see swampy fields of black bulls, white horses galloping, cowboys, migratory birds, and the region's famous pink flamingos grooming in the marshes. Camargue will introduce France as the wildlife heaven you never knew with eagles, hawks, and harriers soaring in the skies. One of the best ways to explore the area is by car or by cycling along the roads or off on lanes forbidden to motor vehicles, according to Provence & Beyond. 

Mouzaïa in Paris

Also known as the Quartier d'Amérique, this is a city within a city. It's a little piece of heaven in an otherwise chaotic mega-city. Located in the 19th district, the quaint neighborhood offers visitors a nice walk through charming cottages where quarrymen used to live. Nowadays artists and writers live in the area.