Northern France is a stunning region often overlooked as a destination in its own right. Travellers head for Central Paris, the Eastern Alsace wine route or the postcard-pretty Southern regions of the Dordogne, Provence and the French Riviera without realising that Northern France has many hidden depths to discover.
For food lovers, Rennes restaurants offer a cornucopia of regional and national dishes. Bayeux is a great base to explore the region’s rich war history and Le Touquet, with its promenade and never-ending sandy beach, rivals any in the South of France.
Add to that the string of picturesque towns and villages, from Honfleur’s colourful harbour to Metz medieval charms, and you won’t be able to stop yourself falling in love with this beautiful northern region of France.
I have asked fellow travellers what they loved best about Northern France. With their contributions, I have put together a guide to the most beautiful towns and villages to inspire you to visit Northern France in the future.
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When to go
Spring or Autumn are good times to visit Northern France; fewer tourists and enjoyable temperatures. The roads in summer can be busy with tourists using the region to travel through to other locations in France. Winter can be cold and gloomy and, much like Britain, the weather can be unpredictable, so pack sweaters and rain macs alongside t-shirts and shorts.
How to get there
From the United Kingdom
Eurostar runs seven trains a day from London St Pancras to Lille. Routes also run from London St Pancras, Ashford International and Folkestone to Calais.
P&O Ferries run daily services between Dover and Dunkirk, Calais and Bologne. DFDS Ferries run from Newhaven to Dieppe, and Brittany Ferries run a Portsmouth to Le Havre route and a Poole to Cherbourg route.
French national rail network (SNCF) connects Lille, Boulogne, Dunkirk and Calais with Paris Central.
A car or motorhome is best for making the most of the northern region.
Visiting from Further Afield
Fly into Paris, pick up a rental car and be in Northern France in 2-3 hours.
The Most Beautiful Towns and Villages in Normandy
Barfleur, Lyons-La-Foret and Veules Les Roses make up three of the six prettiest villages in Normandy, according to the Plus Beaux Villages de France Association. The prestigious title is awarded to extremely picturesque villages in rural locations with a population under 20,000 and a rich culture.
The other three villages in Normandy that share this title are Beuvron-en-Auge, Le Bec-Hellouin and Saint-Céneri- le-Gérei.
Contributed by Joanna from The World In My Pocket
I chose to visit Barfleur simply because it shares its name with the ferry I arrived on in France. Living next to the harbour in the UK, the Barfleur ferry is part of the local life. So, when I boarded it to visit Cherbourg, I decided to pop to Barfleur as well, a beautiful small village an hour away.
Getting to Barfleur from Cherbourg is easy, with a direct bus. However, it doesn’t run very often, so pay attention to the schedule. Barfleur is known locally for the mussels harvested here, called “Blonde de Barfleur”. There are a few restaurants in the village, and all have mussels on their seasonal menus. If you want to eat in Barfleur, I recommend Café de France overlooking the harbour; this is where I had a delicious breakfast. Also, for yummy cakes, go to Fontaine Sylvain patisserie, which is very close to the bus station.
Walk to Gatteville Lighthouse
Barfleur is a lovely village, quiet, with charming stone houses decorated with lavender pots at the windows. I loved discovering the path starting behind the church and leading to the Gatteville lighthouse – the third tallest lighthouse in the world. Along the way, I stumbled upon stunning secluded beaches and a cute windmill transformed into a home.
As Barfleur is not essentially a touristic destination, you can see the fishermen working on their boats. I arrived early in the village and observed them preparing their boats after returning from the sea with their daily catch. A large medallion fixed to a rock in the harbour marks William the Conqueror’s departure from Barfleur to England in 1066 for the Battle of Hastings.
Contributed by Kat from Wandering Bird
We’re always a little sceptical about ‘beautiful towns or villages’, but Lyons-la-Forêt, situated in the heart of Normandy’s largest forest, does live up to the hype. This ridiculously cute village, near Rouen, is definitely worth the effort to reach it.
A former residence of the Dukes of Normandy, nowadays it’s more a tourist destination than anything else. Timber-clad buildings surround the square, and there are cafes, antique shops and fountains all over the place, with plenty of beautifully kept flowers, making it look like a set from a fairytale.
We visited Lyons-La-Foret purely because people said it was pretty, but there are a couple of things to see in the village. The composer Maurice Ravel lived there, and his house (which is beautiful) is worth seeing. The picturesque Church of St Denis and convents, set beside the Lieure river, is also worth a visit.
The village was built on a 12th-century castle site, so there is plenty of history connecting it to the historical courts of Paris. The poet from Louis XIV’s court used to live here.
We ate lunch at the Cafe de la Halle, right on the square and an excellent place for people watching. If you’re motorhoming in France, like we were, there’s a great campsite on the village’s outskirts, which is within easy walking distance. Alternatively, there is a lovely looking hotel in the centre called La Licorne, which looked to have a pool or spa – well deserved on a hot day in Northern France!
Veules Les Roses
Contributed by Where Angie Wanders
The pretty town of Veules-Les-Roses in Northern France is undoubtedly worthy of a place in the “Plus Beaux” list of most beautiful French villages.
From its timbered and thatched roof cottages to its rustic lodges, you will feel like you have stepped into a fairytale setting as you wander around the tiny lanes that lead you to the village centre.
We loved walking beside the River Veules, the smallest river in France, and seeing the beds of water-cress growing there. In spring, the neighbourhood is awash with pretty flowers, and in summer, roses adorn the footpaths beside the river, highlighting where the name of the village originated.
After exploring the village, enjoy lunch at the Hotel Douce France – the pretty courtyard is befitting of this fairytale village or perhaps stay the night.
Veules-Les-Roses can be visited on a road trip through Northern France and is a 2-hour drive if arriving from Paris.
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Contributed by Karen from Where I Wandered
Bayeux is a charming town in the Normandy region of France. We found it the perfect place to base our stay to see the D-Day beaches and other WWII sites. The town miraculously escaped bombing during WWII and therefore is one of the few towns in Normandy that has remained the same throughout the years.
Bayeux is a prosperous and pretty small town with buildings in calming shades of faded greys and weathered mustards. A river runs sedately through the town, and the cobblestoned streets are quiet and serene.
View the Bayeaux Tapestry
The town is most well-known for its impressive cathedral, the Cathedral Notre Dame de Bayeux, which dominates its centre. It is even more famous for the renowned Bayeux tapestry. The tapestry was created to be displayed in the cathedral but now is enshrined in its climate-controlled museum. The tapestry is a must-see while you are visiting Bayeux!
There are also some excellent restaurants in town! La Rapier is one of the top-rated restaurants in Bayeux. Our bed and breakfast hosts recommended that we make reservations here and, we were so glad that we did as this ended up being one of our favourite meals in France.
We loved everything about our stay in Bayeux, from the friendly and kind local people to our time exploring the farmer’s market and from wandering the well-lit streets in the evening to sipping a cider on a restaurant patio at lunch. It is a perfect place to visit in Normandy with plenty of great places to stay in Bayeux catering for all budgets. A particular favourite among guests is Hotel Reine Mathilde.
Contributed by Elisa from Travel France Bucket List
Etretat is a beautiful town located on the Alabaster Coast in Normandy, Northern France. The town has beautiful architecture built in Anglo-Norman style, a pebble beach, sea promenade, and a couple of interesting sites to keep you busy for a day or two.
Most of all, Etretat is world-known for its impressive chalky cliffs. This unique landscape was captured by many Impressionists painting ‘en plein air’. One such artist is Claude Monet and it is possible to see the Etretat cliffs in 80 of Monet’s masterworks spread worldwide.
For this reason, Etretat is a touristy place that sees the crowds even in wintertime; however, the landscape is so unique that it is well worth visiting.
At One with Nature in Etretat
The list of interesting things to do in Etretat includes a stroll along the sea promenade to admire the cliffs, a lazy beach day, or a climb up to the little chapel Notre Dame de la Garde to admire the cliffs from another point of view.
However, my favourite place in Etretat is the Etretat Gardens, an ensemble of mesmerizing, neo-futuristic green spaces combining plants and plant sculptures with contemporary sculptures.
In Etretat, don’t miss the opportunity of eating fresh fish or shellfish, washed down with white wine or cider. It is an excellent place to eat moules-frites or Norman crêpes.
The best way to travel to Etretat is by train to Le Havre and then by local bus. In the summer, travel from Paris to Etretat is possible by a direct local bus. If you are thinking of somewhere to stay in Etretat, Dormy House is a good choice.
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Contributed by Where Angie Wanders
Giverny is a beautiful village in Northern France that is home to the sensational house and gardens of Claude Monet. A trip to Normandy must include a visit to the iconic artist’s famous Japanese water-lily gardens, the subject of some of his most well-known paintings.
Monet’s house is a riot of colour, from its pastel pink and green facade to the canary yellow dining room and sky blue kitchen. But it is his two gardens that draw the crowds, and rightly so.
Monet’s first garden is Clos Normand, densely planted with pretty flowers and plants from Europe and abroad. There is no formality in this garden, and roses, honeysuckle and clematis climb the buildings and garden arches, ensuring a visit is quite magical.
The second garden is the Japanese water-lily garden – the inspiration for Monet’s classic paintings. Water-lilies, a bamboo forest, weeping willows, and even a green bridge across the lake all contribute to Monet’s Japanese theme.
Giverny is a great place to visit on a day trip from Paris or as part of a road trip around the beautiful towns and villages of Northern France.
Contributed by Veronika from Jigsaw Puzzle Queen
Honfleur is a picturesque medieval port town in the North of Normandy, in the department of Calvados. It’s where the River Seine flows into the English Channel. I only spent a day in Honfleur as we visited it on a road trip through Brittany and Normandy. I would highly recommend anyone to stop in this picturesque town and should you want to stay overnight a good choice would be Nouveau Le Bleu Cottage.
The tall, narrow houses with slate tiled roofs that line the harbour are Honfleur’s prominent landmark. They originate from the 17th-18th centuries – the time of the most significant development of the city.
It’s lovely to stroll along the quay and admire the buildings’ architecture and see their reflection in the water or stop for a meal at one of the many delicious seafront restaurants. I also found the unique wooden church from the end of the 15th century fascinating. It’s called Église Ste-Catherine, and you can walk inside to admire the structure.
French Impressionism in Honfleur
Honfleur became popular among French artists of the 19th century, including the famous poet Charles Baudelaire and it is believed that Honfleur is the place where French Impressionism began. You can see some fantastic artwork by French impressionists at the local museum Musée Eugène Boudin. Book a tour of Honfleur with a local tour guide to explore its charms.
When in Northern France, you must try the local crêpe – the savoury version is made with buckwheat flour. One of the best crêpe bistros in Honfleur is Bistrot à crêpes, but you can pop into any Crêperie.
Since you’re right by the sea, you need to have some oysters too! We found a cute oyster bar on top of a boat with only a few seats and the owner running around barefoot. Look for a boat with the sign “Bar à Huîtres“; the oysters are fresh every day and taste delicious.
Contributed by Catherine from Her Bags Were Packed
After a traumatic couple of months, I was planning a work trip to France but was also grieving my father’s death. I knew I’d need to centre myself and recover from jet lag before being “professional,” so I didn’t want a list of attractions to distract and exhaust me. Craving rest, I googled “small towns in France” and stumbled upon Vernon in Normandy.
Arriving in Vernon by train, I was greeted by my Airbnb host, Evelyn. The French often get a bad rap for being rude and unfriendly, but Evelyn completely undid those stereotypes. My visit would not have been what it was without her incredible hospitality.
Vernon was the perfect destination for my “do-nothing” week because I could effortlessly take in the sights. Two of the town’s most well-known landmarks, La Vieux-Moulin, a 16th-century mill, and Chateau des Tourelles, built in 1196 and one of the many fairytale castles in France, were a five-minute walk from Evelyn’s home. I picked up my lunch at a delicious bakery, Boulangerie Bosquetup, across the street from both landmarks, and then ate and read my book just steps away from both, soaking in the sun and watching the swans float along the river.
Cycling Around Vernon
Visitors arriving by train need not worry about renting a car – I didn’t. The town centre is small and walkable. To further explore the 13-square mile town and its surroundings, you can rent an electric bike from Givernon Rental Station, across from the train station. I rode to Monet’s Gardens along the River Seine, checked out Fleur de Seine Creperie, and explored Vernon’s picturesque architecture.
Whether you’re looking for an active few days or some serious R&R, Vernon is the beautiful and charming town in Northern France that you need to visit.
Mont St Michel
Contributed by Where Angie Wanders
No visit to Northern France would be complete without a visit to the iconic French landmark, Mont St Michel, situated on the Normandy/Brittany borders. The fairytale medieval abbey sits on a tidal island and is immortalised in paintings and photographs. It is home to approx 40 inhabitants, mainly nuns and monks and for centuries it was one of Europe’s major pilgrimage sites. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
If the tide is out then it is possible to reach the abbey on foot across the seabed. Make sure that you check daily tides before setting off as you might find you can get there but are cut off for your return visit! It looks almost identical to St Michaels Mount in Cornwall and so British visitors may feel they have seen it before!
We travelled to Mont Saint-Michel from Paris by train in 1 hr 30 mins. The train stops in Rennes and from there, you can then take a direct shuttle coach bus to Mont Saint Michel. If you are holidaying on the Brittany coast it will take you 1 hour by road from Saint Malo.
The Most Beautiful Towns and Villages in Brittany
Contributed by Breanne from Family Camping Europe
When my husband first suggested Carnac in Brittany for our main summer holiday destination, I was dubious. Brittany? But isn’t it cold and miserable there? I’m pleased to say I couldn’t be more wrong. Staying at the beginning of September, we arrived at our campsite in blistering heat and bright sunshine.
But it wasn’t just the weather that surprised us in this idyllic place. Camping Des Menhirs, the campsite we stayed on, was within easy walking distance of the fantastic sandy beach and the bustling town centre. Like most seaside towns, Carnac is full of seafood restaurants, ice-cream parlours and striped t-shirt shops. Yet, something about it seemed way more upmarket than the many other French seaside towns we’ve visited. Perhaps it was the clean streets or the well looked after shop fronts?
We tried out around seven various restaurants in the town during our ten-day holiday, and whilst they were all good, our favourite was Le Cavok. The food was delicious, and they even gave us little blankets to put over ourselves when it got a little chilly in the evening.
Carnac’s Famous Stones
In addition to the stunning beach and charming town, Carnac is steeped in history. Perhaps the most famous thing about Carnac is its Neolithic standing stones, also known as Menhirs. The stones, erected somewhere between around 4500 BC until 2000 BC, bring tourists from all over the globe.
Of course, we had to go and see them. We decided the best way to view them would be via the little Carnac tourist train. I love tourist trains because not only do they take you to where you want to go, but they give you a running commentary too, so it’s a fantastic way to learn Carnac’s history.
Overall, our stay in Carnac was incredible, and I genuinely believe it to be one of the most charming towns in northern France. We loved it so much that we’ve decided to make it an annual holiday destination.
Contributed by Veronika from Travel Geekery
Locronan is one of the most beautiful towns in Northern France and appears frozen in time. You can find it in Brittany, in the département of Finistère, Châteaulin arrondissement.
Since the centre of Locronan’s main development in the 16th to 18th centuries, no visible new construction has occurred there. It’s no wonder then that Locronan has become a popular site for filmmakers. The Locronan authorities have done the maximum to preserve that status, even hiding the city cables underground!
Locronan is also titled “the flower town” as there are flowers everywhere – on window sills and in flower pots scattered all around – it’s a beautiful sight.
Historical Sights in Locronan
The majestic structure of the Church of Saint Ronan, built in the 15th century, dominates Locronan’s main square. Its distinct decorative elements are a prime example of the so-called Flamboyant Gothic style. As is the case with most large churches in the region, there’s a notable calvary, a depiction of Christ’s crucifixion, present on the church grounds, as well as a cemetery.
Locronan is popular among both foreign travellers and locals. It also shows in the number of shops selling traditional Breton biscuits and souvenirs. Many a tourist’s sweet-tooth can be satisfied in one of the numerous chocolate shops or crêperies.
We visited Locronan on a road trip through Brittany and Normandy, just after taking a hike on Brittany’s coast. It was lovely to grab a cup of coffee in a typical local bar called “Ostaliri Ti Jos” and watch the buzz of the day. If you are looking for overnight accommodation, then Latitude Ouest Hotel and Restaurant is a good choice.
Contributed by Faith from XYUandBeyond
Rennes was a must-visit town for me when I travelled to Northern France. Known as a city of heritage and art, its historic centre has preserved its classical and medieval heritage with over 90 protected buildings. I wanted to wander the ancient streets and see all those glorious coloured half-timbered houses for myself.
In Rennes medieval centre around the Place Ste-Anne, there are around 286 incredible coloured half-timbered buildings. In 1720, a fire burnt down most of the city, but this area of cobbled streets and crooked houses was virtually untouched.
You can visit the incredible Couvent des Jacobins (a former Dominican friary) or hang out in the square and people watch. A must-do is a visit to the Place des Lices where knights used to joust and which is now the location of one of France’s largest markets. Nearby you will find the remains of the Porte Mordelaise, the 15th-century gate into the main city.
A Creative and Culinary Hotspot
Rennes is famous for being one of France’s most lively cities, and every month, there is a festival celebrating something. Due to its large student population, Rennes has music and art events ranging from electronic music and Jazz to contemporary art and design.
Rennes is where you come if you are a food lover. With its international reputation for a fantastic food scene, some must-eats include the Breton Galette, savoury buckwheat pancake often stuffed with tartiflette, a type of scalloped potato, crêpes, the sweet version of the galette and, of course, washed down with the famous Breton Cidre.
Many of the restaurants around Place Ste-Anne square specialize in Breton dishes, and at the Creperie Sainte Anne, I enjoyed a galette stuffed with tartiflette – heaven on a plate.
Contributed by Victoria from Guide Your Travel
Saint-Pabu is a beautiful little coastal town located around 30 minutes from the city of Brest. With only 2000 inhabitants, this is by no means a busy place and the perfect spot to escape the tourist crowds. Most people come to Saint-Pabu for kite surfing or a camping vacation. The Campsite L’Aber Benoit is an insider tip amongst those looking for high-quality camping at affordable prices. For under 20€ per night, you’ll get a spot right by the beach with lots of nearby amenities.
What makes Saint Pabu so special is its incredible beach. The water here looks more like that in the Maldives or a Caribbean island, and if you’re not yet convinced if Northern France should be your next destination for a beach vacation, then this seascape will convince you to go. You’ll love the white-sand beach and the shallow waters, which are perfect for families or couples. Saint Pabu is not the place to go for nightlife, but if you appreciate peace and quiet and an experience close to nature, then you’ll love it here.
Beach Activities in Saint Pabu
Explore the sand dunes, go kayaking or paddleboarding and enjoy the incredible French coastline. Saint Pabu is small and hasn’t been overrun by tourists just yet, so life here is still very similar to what it was fifty years ago.
The town used to be a fishing village and has transformed into a beautiful place to relax and unwind. For a truly authentic French experience, stop by the Ruzven restaurant and pub. Located right by the main beach with fantastic views, this little rustic restaurant is the perfect way to immerse yourself into the local culture and try some of the best snacks and foods from Brittany.
The Most Beautiful Towns and Villages in Hautes de France
Contributed by Elisa from World in Paris
If you are looking for a picturesque town to visit in Northern France, Chantilly is a good option. Chantilly is located 45 km north of Paris, in the region of Hauts de France. Because of its excellent train connections with the French capital and its various tourist attractions, Chantilly is considered one of the easiest and best day trips from Paris.
Chantilly is home to the Château de Chantilly, a fairytale castle with magnificent rooms and halls to explore. I especially like the château’s artwork collection (the second most important in France, only after the Louvre Museum) and the beautiful library and lecture room.
The château is surrounded by magnificent French-style gardens designed by André Le Notre, and when I visit Chantilly, I always like to have a picnic in the gardens. For a more comfortable lunch, however, the restaurant inside the castle always has good ratings.
Chantilly Horse Riding
The Great Stables are also interesting to visit. Louis-Henri de Bourbon commissioned this spectacular building for his 200 horses and 500 hounds, and it is as magnificent as impressive as the château. Today the Great Stables hosts one of the most prestigious horse training centres in the world and the Chantilly Horse Museum, with a daily horse performance (in the morning) under the building’s central dome.
Chantilly is world-known for its Chantilly Racecourse, founded in 1834, which hosts today two of the most prestigious France Galop races: the Prix du Jockey-Club and the Prix de Diane Longines. During my visits to Chantilly, I have never seen any of these races, but the racecourse is spectacular to see even when it is empty.
Contributed by Nichola from Family Hotel Expert
Hardelot is the perfect northern French town – full of charm and with the most wonderful beach. Situated just 8 miles south of Boulogne, it is a really peaceful getaway and has everything you need to for a great stay here. We visited with kids, and it really is the perfect destination for family holidays in northern France.
We decided on Hardelot as our base for a trip exploring the Opal Coast as it looked idyllic with a huge stretch of sandy beach and quaint little town. Staying in the Hotel du Parc, which was packed full of leisure facilities it was a great retreat at the end of long days out sightseeing.
The town has some great history – an Englishman, John Robinson Whitley, bought a castle and some land here and wanted to develop the area as a leisure resort. King George V even visited. Extensively bombed during the Second World War, after the Nazis took over the town, today it has been rebuilt and has a real seaside feel to it.
We loved the ice-cream coloured beach huts that line the promenade, and it felt much less crowded than many usual French seaside resorts. If you’re visiting, it really is the spot to try out outdoor pursuits; windsurfing is particularly prominent here, along with golf and tennis.
There are plenty of patisseries to pick up pastries and little restaurants dotted about the town. The reason to come here really though, is for the outstanding beach which feels like a breath of fresh air. We loved our time here and can’t wait to return.
Contributed by Where Angie Wanders
Le Touquet is a seaside resort in Northern France that I have visited with friends and family on many occasions. Referred to as “Jardin de la Manche” – Garden of the English Channel, it is just south of Boulogne. The white sandy beach is enormous and continues further than the eye can see, meaning you always have plenty of space to yourself. Grassy dunes with walking routes line the beach should you fancy stretching your legs to explore the shoreline.
But Le Touquet is so much more than just a beach destination. Its town has restaurants and bars galore serving both regional dishes alongside international dishes. Cute bars serve cold beers and are a place to people watch.
Rue Saint-Jean is the central place to find shops, including fashion boutiques, trendy artisan stores, tempting bakeries, and mouth-watering chocolatiers, not forgetting Kokoa – Le Touquet’s best artisan ice-cream store. Be aware that parking in town is terrible so you may need to find a space on the outskirts and walk into town.
While much of Le Touquet was re-built in the ’60s, you can still see several unique preserved villas from the 1920s when Le Touquet was the place to be seen by the Paris jet set.
Outdoor Activities in Le Touquet
Golfers will be impressed by Le Touquet’s golf course and its luxurious Le Manoir Hotel, while wind-surfers and kite-surfers will enjoy taking to the waters. Horse-riders will find several riding schools in the area and children and adults alike will love Aqualud water park right on the beach.
Further out of town Le Touquet has a beautiful pine forest with an expanse of walking and cycling lanes. On several visits, I have stayed at Le Belvedere, an English owned B & B offering basic but clean accommodation in a glorious setting.
Saint Valery-sur-Somme is an utterly charming medieval town in northern France. Just 75 minutes by car from Calais, the town is on the coast, near the mouth of the River Somme.
The town has a pretty outlook over the Baie de la Somme with colourful fishing and sailing boats moored in the harbour. We spent a day exploring the town’s medieval alleyways, ramparts, riverside walk and colourful boutiques and restaurants.
Saint Valery-sur-Somme is twinned with Battle in East Sussex, the site of the Battle of Hastings. We live nearby and were keen to see the twinned town. William the Conqueror assembled his fleet at Saint Valery-sur-Somme before sailing to England’s south coast and defeating King Harold at the historic battle in 1066.
There’s a rich history in Saint Valery-sur-Somme. Joan of Arc was imprisoned here the night before she was taken to Rouen and burned at the stake. Her cell’s remains and the ancient town walls, its ramparts and towers can still be seen.
Explore the Old Sailor’s Quarter
My favourite thing was to wander through the old sailors’ quarter, the ‘Courtgain‘ (which means small salary). The cobbled alleyways lined with fishermen’s cottages adorned with colourful flowers and half-timbered buildings are incredibly quaint.
I’d also recommend a stroll along the harbourside, lined with brasseries, cafes and bars. Check out the impressive villas – Victor Hugo, Jules Verne and Dégas once lived in the town.
The food market is on Wednesdays and Saturdays, where you’ll pick up some excellent local produce. Try a local favourite like Ficelle Picarde, a delicious crêpe dish made with ham, mushrooms and cream. Seafood is abundant with mussels grown on wooden poles in the sea. You’ll find freshly caught fish on the menu at family-run restaurant Le Mathurin where the day’s catch dictates the dish du jour.
The Most Beautiful Town in Lorraine
Contributed by Tegan from Why Not Walk Travel Guides
Tucked away in northeastern France’s Lorraine region is Metz, a delightful town sometimes known as “the Bride of France.” We visited Metz as part of a road trip that took us from Paris through the Loire Valley to Strasbourg, and Metz was a definite highlight of the trip.
Perhaps best known for its Gothic cathedral, Metz is full of historical places to explore. From the Gare de Metz-Ville, originally built for transporting Kaiser Wilhelm II’s soldiers during World War I to the historic Place Saint-Louis, which features architecture dating back to the 14th century. The Porte des Allemands towers date back to medieval times, and are open to the public along with the Église Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnains, the oldest church in France (dating back to 390 CE!)
Beautiful Views from Temple Neuf
You can’t miss strolling along the river and admiring the charming architecture along its banks, as well as visiting the Esplanade park. Don’t miss the view of the picturesque Temple Neuf, located on the small Île du Petit-Saulcy in the middle of the river. Overall, Metz is an eminently walkable city, with green spaces, walking paths, and narrow cobblestoned streets galore. Maybe you prefer to bike and if so, Metz has reinvented itself in recent years as a major biking hub, which we enjoyed while we were there.
If you want to spend longer than one day in Metz, the Hotel La Citadelle Metz is an up-market hotel in the heart of the city.
Between Tuesday and Saturday, be sure to grab a bite to eat at the Covered Market. You will find a splendid variety of stalls selling bread, cheese, charcuterie, and other local delicacies. Check out some of the small cafes and eateries serving up Lorraine regional specialities as well as international options like pizza or sandwiches. Metz is also a great place to try Quiche Lorraine, the region’s best-known dish.
Want to continue this road trip from Metz? Check Out 11 Most Beautiful Towns in Eastern France to Visit on a Road Trip
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