Studying abroad is a great opportunity to travel: you have more days off than the average worker and you can enjoy student discounts on the train, museums, and more! While Paris, Marseille, and Bordeaux are probably already on your list, you should also take advantage of your time in France to visit smaller cities. I was born and raised in France, so I had plenty of time to explore the French countryside. Here are five cities I like to visit whenever I want to relax and escape the big city.
Granville & the Mont Saint-Michel
Image via Musée Christian Dior
Granville is a small town within Normandy in Northwestern France and is best known as the birth town of Christian Dior. The Villa “Les Rhumbs,” Christian Dior’s childhood home, was turned into a museum in 1997 and is the only museum dedicated to the designer, so you should not miss it!
Sometimes nicknamed “Monaco of the North,” I love Granville for its fantastic sea views and its amazing architecture. Ancient churches, military remains and Art Nouveau style exist side by side. I also have to mention the amazing seafood and the “tarte normande.” If you stay in the region for a few days, you should definitely check out “Le Mont-Saint-Michel,” a fortified town built on an island. This is probably the most amazing and unique place in France.
If you are afraid of the Norman weather, you should head down south to Aix-en-Provence. Located in the heart of Provence, the city that inspired famous painter Cézanne is beautiful. Aix-en-Provence is three hours by train from Paris and 45 minutes from Marseille.
Aix-en-Provence is the perfect city to enjoy the French “art de vivre.” I love to take a stroll beneath the trees of the “Cours Mirabeau” and stop at one of the city’s farmer’s markets to buy fresh fruits. After a long day of exploring the city, have a drink on the terrace of a Café and relax! Before you leave, don’t forget to taste the famous “calisson” at Le Roy René.
Photo via Rue89
When visiting the Northeast, people often go straight to Strasbourg and don’t even consider Nancy. Nancy is a great destination for a weekend getaway.
In the 1920s, Nancy was a major center of the Art Nouveau and the architectural heritage can be seen on every street corner. The “Place Stanislas” is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site and is probably the most Instagram-worthy spot in town. Gastronomy is also a part of the French experience, so indulge in a slice of “quiche lorraine” or a “macaron de Nancy.” “Bergamotes” will be a nice gift for your friends and family.
Photo via Flickr
Last but not least, Fontainebleau is my favorite day trip destination from Paris. This city is renowned for the large “Forêt de Fontainebleau” and the historic “Château de Fontainebleau.” It is also my birthplace, so you have to love it!
Plan on arriving early to Fontainebleau so you can visit the castle and its gardens in the morning. Don’t miss Marie Antoinette’s Turkish-style boudoir and the Lakeside Pavilion. My sister and I could spend hours feeding the hundred-year-old carps when we were kids. Take a break, head to the town center to have lunch in one of the many restaurants, and finish your day with a walk through the forest.