Avoiding Tourist Traps en Français: Getting Off France’s Beaten Path

If you’re traveling through France, you’re probably sticking to the country’s top hits: Paris, Marseille, Cannes, Nice, and maybe, if you’re feeling adventurous, you’ll travel to Toulouse. These well-worn city paths cater to travelers young and old as prime tourist towns. Here, you’ll never fear that the only hostel in town is complet or that your waiter won’t speak enough English to get you a much needed café and croissant. 

But, the lesser known cities that mark France’s countryside are also well worth a visit. Cities like Caen and Avignon don’t call to mind the sexier side of France, but their quiet, understated beauty makes them well worth the visit. 

Beautiful picture of La Calanques
Jessica Moore | Lets Go

In these hostels, you’ll find a quieter group of travelers. Most make long treks through the country and feel intent on exploring or ‘getting to know’ a city. Gone are the rambunctious, wild college kids coming to club in Paris, or to ‘get wasted’ in Marseille. Here, people sit for hours drinking beer and getting to know one another, talking about life across continents. 

And it isn’t as though these cities have less to offer the young, hip backpacker. Here, tourism offices work incredibly hard to draw people into their cities. You’ll find some museums that are truly hidden gems filled with incredible works of art, streets that are so clean you could eat off of them, and well maintained historic landmarks that make the trip well worth it. 

Maybe you won’t spend your night raging deep into the morning, and perhaps there may be only one hostel in the city, but the streets are well worn, and the small towns are easily traversed on foot. These understated, quiet towns in the regions of Normandy and Provence are a backpacker’s escape, the perfect place to sit back and relax, and in many cases, meet some of the most down-to-earth globetrotters there are. Essentially, don’t sleep on France’s smaller cities, because they won’t disappoint.

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