What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of France? Paris? Croissants? Chanel? Baguette? Zinedine Zidane? This beautiful and diverse country in Western Europe is famous for many things and every year millions of people from all over the world come to visit; actually Paris ranks among the most frequently traveled to places worldwide. But all too often travelers (especially those visiting from other continents) only concentrate on getting to know the country’s most famous city while missing out on some incredibly special places in the rest of the country. That’s why today I would like to introduce you to three of my favourite French cities:
Cité de Carcassonne
This little treasure is hidden in the very South of France, not too far from the Spanish border. Right above the little town of Carcassonne you will find a medieval citadel overlooking one of France’s most interesting landscapes. This UNESCO world heritage has seen many different people come and go: from the Romans who originally turned it into a fortress, to the Visigoths, Saracens and Crusaders. Today visitors from all over the world wander among its tiny alleys, dine in its unfortunately very overpriced restaurants and get to dream themselves away to medieval times. Save some money by spending the night in the very inexpensive Auberge de Jeunesse which is situated in the heart of the medieval town. When it comes to food no wishes will remain unfulfilled: mainstream French cuisine is available at every corner and if you are a little more adventurous I would recommend ordering a Languedocian meat stew with white haricot beans in one of the many restaurants near Place Marcou.
Some of my favourite childhood memories include mini road trips with my parents on a hunt for the most delicious tartes flambées. What better place to try this mouth watering, crispy specialty topped with créme frâiche, onions, lardons and (if you want to be extra naughty) gruyére cheese than the city of Strasbourg! This place has often been described as the cultural bridge between France and Germany and as a German I couldn’t feel any more at home whenever I get to visit the official seat of the European Parliament. The city centre is filled with timber-framed houses, majestic medieval churches and lively squares with thousands of students from all over Europe enjoying a bottle of wine and playing guitar. Make sure you take your time exploring the Gerberviertel and don’t forget to taste these tartes flambées!
Speaking of beautiful historic cities: the city centre of Avignon is so characteristic for the south of France that you can’t help but fall into vacation mode as soon as you enter this beautiful place. Cute little cafés, colourful window shutters and mofas contribute to the fantastic atmosphere within the ancient city wall. If you are into historic sights you will enjoy the world famous Palais des Papes and of course the famously sung about Pont d’Avignon. After a day full of city adventures make sure you pay a visit to Les Burgers de Lucien, my favourite restaurant in Avignon! Have I sparked any wanderlust? Well, let me give you one last advice before you rush off to southern France: parking in Avignon can be extremely expensive and stressful, since there are hardly any parking spaces. If you travel there by car, I recommend you parking as far away as possible and using public transportation to get into the city.
Do you have any insider tips for me? I am always looking for new places to explore and would love it if you could share some of your favourite places in France with me and my readers!