Spectacular Small Towns and Cities in France


Everyone seems to love Paris, which I find ironic as I find that France has a lot more to offer than this iconic city. I also find that the people in France were much friendlier in outlying cities.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to go on a river cruise with Uniworld a boutique luxury cruise specialist.

The trip was free as I was accompanying someone who won the trip. Granted I was not initially excited. I feared that I would be the only person under 40 and that I would be touring the country at a snails pace.

This fear was partially true and while it is not something I would do again I did enjoy myself as the Rhône and Saône river offer access to beautiful parts of France which most visitors simply do not have access to. The cruise was from Avignon to Lyon. Below are the featured highlights from this unexpected delight:


I was impressed with this city which includes the Palais Des Papes, and the Pont D’avignon which were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. The medieval monuments and city center make this a spectacular city which far surpasses anything Paris has to offer. Ancient history runs wild here, between 1309 and 1377 alone seven popes resides in Avignon. The city has done an admirable job preserving its heritage.

I don’t want to bore anyone with a history lesson but if you are looking for somewhere unique to visit in France that offers spectacular history than this is your destination.

The highlight without a doubt in my mind was the Palais Des Papes which is a huge castle within the city. You’ll feel like you are in ancient times as you explore this castle.


Viviers is a delight, I felt like I was taken back to a different era. Historic structures and narrow lanes add to the towns medieval character. When you climb the Rue du Chateau (castle road) it offers spectacular views of 12th century St.Vincent’s Cathedral.

This is a super small town with a population of 3000 and it feels like this town has not changed in centuries. This is what all small towns should be like. I cannot explain the feeling of walking around this town which has managed to retain its charm for such a long time.


While this city was nice it was probably the least impressive of the four locations that I am highlighting. That’s not to discourage you from visiting this city it’s just that Avignon and Viviers are so impressive that they are hard to compete with.

This is a village with a unique character. The highlight is without a doubt Tournon’s castle which sits on a rock and overlooks the river and the town. Some of the castle was built in the 10th century while some of it was only finished in the 14th century. Walking around this town offers spectacular views of a bygone era.


This is where my trip ended and Lyon is one of the larger cities in France that I saw with a population of 500 000.  This is what I wish Paris was like for me, as I found the people were friendly and the historical sights were numerous. From the Amphithéâtre des Trois Gaules which is a Roman amphitheatre dating to 19. A.D to medieval and Renaissance architecture in Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon), and the modern Confluence district on the Presqu’île peninsula. This city just had so much to offer and is in my opinion under appreciated.

While I would not normally book a river cruise (Egypt is the exception that appeals to me) I did appreciate the opportunity to access different towns and cities than I would normally not be exposed to. And that is what traveling is all about. It’s about experiencing things you would not normally experience. It’s about jumping at the opportunity to see something different and to open your eyes to the world.

In the past I had stated that France did not appeal to me, now I know different.