While cities like Paris are wonderful to visit on your travels to France, there is plenty more to experience when you venture out and explore the French countryside. From world-renowned wine regions to the ski resorts of the Rhone Alps, you’ll find countless French towns that bear resemblance to your favorite fairy tale or Disney movie.
When you’re planning your next trip to France, be sure to include at least one of these five French towns to live out your most magical daydreams.
Imagine a medieval town on a lake, surrounded by snow-capped mountains in the background, and you have Annecy. This jaw-dropping alpine spot is renowned for its old town, or Vieille Ville, that has winding canals, cobblestone streets and beautifully colored homes. Château d’Annecy dominates the lakeside landscape and was once home to the Counts of Geneva.
Spend the day in Annecy cycling around the lake or rent a paddleboat instead. Be sure to visit the Pont des Amours, or Lovers’ Bridge, where legend states that if two lovers kiss on the bridge, they will stay together forever.
Located in the Alsace region, Colmar feels like it stepped right out of the pages of a childhood fairy tale. The picturesque old town immediately draws you in with its flower-lined canals, brightly colored medieval buildings and cobblestone streets. The Quai de Poissoniers, nicknamed Petit Venice, is where you’ll easily fill up a memory card snapping Instagram-worthy photos of the half-timbered houses. These buildings date back to the 14th century, and legend has it the bright colors signaled the profession of the inhabitants — fisherman, butcher, etc. Be sure to grab a table along the canal, have a glass of Alsatian wine and star in your own fairy tale — for the day at least.
Carcassonne is a fortified town that sits atop a hill in France’s Languedoc wine region. The UNESCO World Heritage Site has countless towers, turrets and multiple drawbridges. Outside Carcassonne’s fortified walls, you’ll find vineyards and the Canal du Midi, a set of waterways that were constructed in the 1600s to connect the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
If you are itching to see even more castles, Carcassonne is only 20 minutes from Chateaux de Lastours, four ruined castles that date back to the 11th century.
Once you arrive in Chamonix, you can’t help but feel like you’ve stepped inside Santa’s workshop at the North Pole. This beautiful winter wonderland is located near the borders of Italy and Switzerland, and it was the site for the first Winter Olympic Games in 1924. Chamonix sits at the base of Mont Blanc, which is the highest summit in the Alps. While skiing is the big draw here, cable cars run year-round and take visitors up to other peaks, like Aiguille du Midi, where you can marvel at the Mont Blanc range. Adventure seekers will want to ride to the top and check out “Step into the Void.” This new attraction allows visitors to step into a glass-sided box that gives a bird’s eye view of the 1,000-meter drop below you.
While many people associate Colmar with Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Riquewihr is also said to have inspired the iconic movie. Located in Eastern France, Riquewihr lies along the Alsace Wine Route. Don’t miss sights like the 14th century Tour des Voleurs, a former prison, or the Dolder, a defensive gate dating back to the 13th century. Half-timbered homes from the 15th to 18th centuries line Riquewihr’s cobblestone streets where you can now find local winemakers’ shops and tasting rooms. Riquewihr is often called the Gem of the Alsace Vineyards, so be sure stop by a tasting room and learn what makes Alsatian wines so special.