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5 Picturesque French Cities That Aren’t Paris

Eiffel Tower

It’s the summer, and vacation plans are a GO! 

Or at least, they’re a GO! for those who forgot to book a vacation earlier in the year. 

And we say that like it’s a fun thing, when really, booking a vacation this late into the year is often pretty miserable. Plane flights are scarce, activities are booked, and hotel prices are through the roof – if you’re lucky enough to even find a hotel that has a roof. 

Yep, finding the vacation you dreamed of is undoubtedly a hardship at this time of year, even more so if you’re planning to visit a big capital city.In 2022, for instance, around 44 million tourists visited Paris for their vacation, making it the most-visited city in the world. 

But if you’re planning a late getaway to the City Of Light (and food and romance and stuff), you’ll find it far harder to get the experience you deserve from a city like this.

So what should you do? Don’t go on vacation? Pah, as if. Instead, you could hold off on your dream Paris getaway for a year and visit the next best thing. 

Believe it or not, Paris is not the only city in France. In fact, there are several alternatives that some tourists say are even better than the capital. 

With this in mind, we’re going to take you to a few Paris alternatives and perhaps save you a vacation-booking experience from hell.


If you’re an Instagram lover and looking for the next subject for an Instagram photo book, you won’t find a more photogenic city than Lyon.  

This city has everything, from the stunning Basilica of Notre Dame to the ancient, derelict Roman theatres. Around every corner, there’s a new photograph opportunity, a new moment to capture, and a new selfie to be had! 

Why It’s A Good Alternative

Lyon is an excellent alternative to Paris purely on a visual level. The city of Paris is, of course, beautiful. But Lyon meets Paris’ beauty and, perhaps at some points, even surpasses it. 


Montpellier is nicknamed “the wonder child”, and for good reason. This is one of Paris’ and Lyon’s eccentric younger siblings, growing up all quiet and small but now officially in its “wild teenager phase”.

It took until the 1980s before Montpellier became one of France’s fastest-growing cities, but since then, it has become one of the best places to visit. Whether you’re exploring the mediaeval schools beside the Benedictine monastery or experiencing the bustling nightlife in Montpellier Square, there’s always something fun to do.

Why It’s A Good Alternative

There are several different faces to Montpellier. One moment, you’re in mediaeval France, the next, you’re walking along a street full of striking, modern architecture. It has just as much variety as Paris, a city in which you could never get bored.  


We’re writing this list for people who want a cost-effective alternative to Paris, which won’t be packed to the brim with tourists who have booked out all the best restaurants and activities. With this in mind, you can’t get much better than Lille, in northern France. 

This city is right on the border with Belgium; it’s quiet but gives a good indication of everything that France has to offer. There might not be as much to do as there is in Paris, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a brilliant destination to visit all the same.

Why It’s A Good Alternative

Calm. Serenity. Relaxation. The city of Lille has nowhere near the number of visitors as Paris, which means it’s a good indication of France without all the touristy attractions and hubbub. 


Bordeaux is an effortlessly cool city. Sat on the river Garonne in Southwestern France, this place is the perfect mix of countryside and gorgeous architecture, making it an ideal spot for the avid photographer looking for contrasts. 

For us, asking why this city is photogenic is like asking why London is so photogenic. There are, of course, tourist spots, but it’s not the tourist spots that grab you. It’s the history of the city, the atmosphere it evokes, and the variety it offers. That's what makes it the perfect picture.

Why It’s A Good Alternative

Bordeaux is a good alternative to Paris because, like Paris, it is one of the coolest and most fashionable parts of France. It’s also just as steeped in history and stories as Paris, with some incredible architecture to boot.


We’re going to finish with many people’s favorite Paris alternative: Nice. Located right on the coast, this city is known for its food, beauty, carnivals, and intense sunshine. 

Some of the best things to get up to here include visiting Nice Cathedral, wandering the Cours Saleya Market and, of course, strolling along the gorgeous La Reserve beach – a scene that is definitely one for the photo book maker!

Why It’s A Good Alternative

What’s that, you say? Why is it a good alternative? Well, that's the wrong question to ask. The real question is: why is it a better alternative? Because we really think it is. 

Compared to Paris, Nice has everything from fun activities – check out the escape rooms in the centre of the city — historic sites, unbelievable cuisine, and sandy beaches. And all of this without the hustle and bustle of 44 million tourists! That’s gotta be worth a visit, right?


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