France isn’t just historic buildings, fabulous museums, glorious countryside, and beach resorts, as many hidden gems of its long history, culture, legends, and traditions are set alongside its world-famous attractions. Natural wonders, remote mountain vistas, and even Paris Disneyland all make for great sites to visit.

Chartres Cathedral

Unusual for a late medieval religious building, the massive, High Gothic Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres has seen little alteration since it was finished in the early 13th century. Even its stained-glass windows are original, and it’s been a pilgrimage site since its inception for its Sancta Carnisa holy relic. Address: 16, Cloitre Notre Dame, Chartres, France Phone: +33-2-37-217-502 Website:

Palais des Papes

Located in Avignon, the huge Palace of the Popes dates from 1335, the year in which Pope Clement VI fled Rome to settle in Avignon. The incredible building looms over the city and its fortifications boast 10 foot thick walls, watchtowers, and portcullises. It’s one of the most important medieval landmarks in the world and was completed in less than 20 years. Address: Avignon, France Phone: +33-4-32-743-274 Website:

The Great Dune of Pyla

For those who enjoy getting away from it all, a visit to the Great Dune of Pyla reveals Europe’s tallest sand dune. Located close to Pyla sur Mer in the Gironde department, the huge dune stands 350 feet tall and covers 1.5 miles from end to end, backed with miles of pine forest rich in birds and wildlife. Address: Arcachon Bay, Gironde district, France Phone: n/a Website:

Verdon Gorge

Famous for its spectacular emerald green hue, the River Verdon runs for 15 miles through sheer-sided, forested limestone cliffs in southeastern France’s Alpes de Haute-Provence region. Considered to be one of the loveliest gorges in Europe, it’s a magic place for kayaking, canoeing, rafting, sailing, and waterskiing. Address: Parc Naturel Regional du Verdon, France Phone: n/a Website: http://www.provenceweb/verdon/gorges.htm

Arenes de Nimes

Nestling in the French city of Nimes, this magnificent amphitheater is the best-preserved example of Roman architecture in ancient France. Built in 70 AD, it later housed a small village within its walls until its 18th century conversion into a bullring. Two bullfights still take place annually, and it’s also a popular venue for concerts. Address: 4 Boulevard des Arènes 30000 Nîmes, France Phone: +33-8-91-701-401 Website:

The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes

In spite of its admittedly tacky tourist image, Lourdes is still one of Christianity’s premier pilgrim sites and inexplicable cures have taken place here. Set in the foothills of the Pyrenees, the sanctuary buildings rise against a forested backdrop, and the Cave of Apparitions is the source of the allegedly healing waters. Address: Lourdes, southwestern France Phone: +33-5-62-427-878 Website:


A visit to this stunning walled city on a hill in the far south of France is a trip back in time to the medieval era through its winding, cobbled alleyways and tiny squares lined with ancient homes and shops. The old town is a UNESCO World Heritage site for its absolute perfection, and an unforgettable experience for visitors. Even the ‘New Town’, set at the foot of the hill, dates back to the Middle Ages. Address: Carcassone, Languedoc-Roissillon Region Phone: n/a Website:

The Caves of Lascaux

Going way back to the dawn of the human race 17,000 years ago, the famed caves at Lascaux are believed to have been a sacred sanctuary for performance rites and rituals. Thousands of colorful paintings of animals were as bright when they were discovered in 1940 as when they were made, but soon began to fade and are now closed off to the public. The on-site museum with its exact replicas of the unbelievably ancient artworks is well worth a visit by tourists fascinated by the beginnings of human art. Address: Montignac, France Phone: +33-5-53-519-503 Website:

Disneyland Park, Paris

If you’re planning a family visit to France, there’s one unmissable attraction – Disneyland Paris - the ultimate reward for kids who’ve allowed their parents to drag them around Roman sites, cathedrals, and medieval towns without protest. Fairyland castles, thrilling rides, theme parks, food options, and all the Disney favorites from Mickey Mouse onwards are all here, true to the original concept. Address: Marne-la-Valle, France Phone: +33-1-60-306-030 Website:

Chamonix Valley

Even if skiing or climbing the magnificent massifs of the French Alps isn’t on the holiday agenda, viewing them from the year-round paradise of the Chamonix Valley is an unforgettable add-on to any vacation. The sheer walls of Mont Blanc overlook the valley’s lakes and pastures, and cable cars take sightseers and skiers alike to stunning views across the High Alps. The town of Chamonix itself is large and touristy, but manages to retain its Alpine charm in spite of its five million visitors a year. Address: Chamonix, Haute-Alpes, France Phone: n/a Website: