Here’s a guide to three of the best regions outside of Paris to consider for an unforgettable romantic excursion.
The Underrated Masterpiece of Colmar
Only a couple hours by train from either Paris or Zurich, Colmar is an eye-popping collaboration of European traditions that is extremely easy to fall in love with. Thanks to its canal-spanning bridges, vintage houses lining the waterways, and pristinely preserved old town area, you could easily think that you’re in Amsterdam or Bruges, but the picturesque village also has a unique persona of its own. It’s even the centerpiece of the scenic Alsatian wine region, offering plenty of worthwhile day trips scattered throughout the area.
But it all starts in the historic old town, a quaint village center loaded with half-timbered houses that seem transported from a storybook. Whether you mainly get around by water taxi, bike, or by foot, the rows of little shops and cafés give off a classical European vibe and you can easily get happily lost wandering the old town area without any sort of actual plan. As a town that was part of Germany for a stretch in the 19th century as well as during WWII, Colmar showcases a unique hybrid of French and Germanic food and culture, which is perfect for hopping around sipping cocktails or eating local delicacies like cheese croquettes and tarte flambee.
There are also plenty of landmarks to see as well, starting with the Unterlinden Museum. Formerly a medieval convent, the beautiful Unterlinden has a collection of some of the finest modern art in the country and is actually one of the most visited museums in all of France (outside of Paris). The cobbled streets of Colmar will lead you to other architectural standouts like the Maison Pfister building, the Renaissance-influenced House of Heads, and old-fashioned street fountains that add a little extra character. Colmar is also an ideal place for a day trip into wine country, where you can sip the flavors of the renowned Alsace region and visit other visually sumptuous medieval villages like Riquewihr and Eguisheim.
A Wealth of Things to do in Dordogne
Good luck trying to narrow down your list when you get to Dordogne, a breathtaking region in southwest France that seems tailor-made for romantic excursions. An easy starting point is the Chateau de Beynac, an elevated 12th-century fortress that looks down over the Dordogne River and curvy green countryside. Even if perusing centuries-old frescoes, tapestries, and dungeons isn’t your idea of romanticism, the cozy surrounding village of Beynac is filled with classically French restaurants and little shops that will take you to a different era. Beynac’s preserved architectural wonders and timeless vibe has also been captured in several prominent Hollywood films, including Chocolat and the Dustin Hoffman version of The Joan of Arc Story.
Only an hour by car from Beynac, Brantome is another couples favorite complete with quiet canals and stone-arch bridges that have brought comparisons to Venice. A relaxing cruise or kayaking session along the River Donne is one of the best ways to tap the scenery in the area, as you’ll see long stretches of forests that are deep green in the spring and summer and flushed with orange and red in the fall. And for the true romantics, a night’s stay on the banks of the Dronne at the ivy-coated Moulin de L’Abbaye – a converted 16th-century mill – is all you need to capture the mood. Founded by Charlemagne more than a millennium ago, Brantome’s small village feel and gorgeous vantage points make it a must-stop for anyone heading to Dordogne.
The Lavender Fields and Quiet Scenery of the Luberon
Come to the Sénanque Abbey (Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque) in the middle of summer and you’ll see flowing fields of deep purple lavender to go with one of the most peaceful and scenic lands in the Luberon region in the south of France. Founded in the mid-12th century as a Cistercian abbey, Sénanque has some ancient charm on the interior and is perfect for having a picnic lunch in the serene valley that surrounds the main building. Onsite, monks can be seen tending to honeybees as well as to the lavender fields, which exude a deliciously sweet smell during the peak of the season.
Those who can’t get enough of the great outdoors also might want to try Roussillon, where you can find immaculate hiking and biking trails to explore. The dramatic orange and red cliffs of the Ochre Trail bring visitors from all over the world, making it an excellent opportunity to escape with a loved one for some of the best views in the Luberon. The Parcours de L’Art is another worthy hiking trail to try out and the very small town of Roussillon also has some nice stops on its own, including a couple of beloved art galleries run by local artists.
Other Amazing Sites Worth Considering
Sitting in eerie isolation atop the sprawling mudflats in Normandy, Mont Saint-Michel is a national treasure and one of the most visited places in France. Not only is a visit to the famous abbey worth your time but the area also is an amazing place to simply walk around and enjoy the unique scenery of the northwest coast of France. For romantically inclined travelers who love architecture, a trip to Bordeaux can be a once-in-a-lifetime getaway thanks to its long list of impressive historic landmarks scattered throughout the city. Meanwhile, the scenic vineyards, the beautiful country chateaux, and the group of quaint old villages of the Loire Valley make the area another great spot for romance.
While there’s certainly no reason for a couple to avoid Paris, anyone who gets an opportunity to explore the rest of the country has a nearly endless carousel of opportunities to see why France is considered the pinnacle of romantically-tinged travel.