Eastern France, a region exuding history, culture, and natural beauty, holds some of the country’s best-kept secrets. With a landscape as diverse as its cities, there’s a treasure trove of hidden gems waiting to be discovered. In this article, we’ll take you on a virtual tour, revealing the underrated locales, the unsung heroes of French history, and some of the most splendid sights France has to offer.
Metz: The Underrated City
Our journey begins with Metz, a city often overshadowed by the more popular destinations of Paris and Nice. However, those who visit Metz are rewarded with stunning architecture, most notably the Centre-Pompidou Metz, which houses an impressive collection of modern and contemporary art. This city, brimming with vibrant culture and art, offers an entirely unique French experience.
Dole: Louis Pasteur’s Birthplace
We then proceed to Dole, the town where the renowned scientist Louis Pasteur was born. Steeped in history, the Collégiale Notre-Dame de Dole is a must-visit with its stunning gothic architecture and breathtaking views of the city.
Mâcon: The Southern Burgundy City
Next, we head to Mâcon, a city where Burgundian and Provençal cultures intertwine. With its Mediterranean influences, sun-drenched stone buildings, and beautiful riverfront, Mâcon is a serene and picturesque stop on our journey through Eastern France.
Châtel: The Mountain Resort
For those with an inclination for outdoor adventures, Châtel is the place to be. Part of the Portes du Soleil ski complex, it offers an array of outdoor activities, making it a haven for adventure enthusiasts.
Evian-Les-Bains: Home of Evian Water
Our journey takes us next to Evian-Les-Bains, known worldwide as the home of Evian water. This charming town on the banks of Lake Geneva boasts elegant belle époque architecture and the Palais Lumiere, a former spa turned cultural center.
Vienne: The Roman City
Vienne, a city steeped in history, is up next. Its Roman Theatre is one of the largest surviving Roman theatres in Europe, offering a unique insight into the ancient civilization’s lifestyle and architecture.
Besançon: The Birthplace of Victor Hugo
A visit to Besançon, the birthplace of the celebrated French author Victor Hugo, is next. The UNESCO-protected Citadel offers panoramic views of the city and houses several museums, making it a historical and cultural hub.
Varennes: In the Footsteps of Louis XVI
We then explore the rural charm of Varennes, the site of the infamous Flight of Louis XVI during the French Revolution. The town offers a peaceful retreat from bustling cities while being steeped in historical significance.
Château des Monthairons: A Fairytale Experience
For a fairytale French experience, the Château des Monthairons, now operating as the Hostellerie du Château, is an absolute must-visit. This beautiful château set amidst verdant greenery offers a peek into French luxury and elegance.
Abbey of St Germanus: The Spiritual Hub
Our journey through Eastern France concludes with a visit to the Abbey of St Germanus in Auxerre.
This spiritual hub dedicated to Saint Germanus stands as a testament to the region’s deep-seated religious history.
Chalon-Sur-Saône: The Timber-Framed City
Finally, we arrive at Chalon-Sur-Saône, a city known for its timber-framed houses. Home to the Nicéphore Niépce museum dedicated to the inventor of photography, it offers a blend of history, culture, and charming landscapes.
This journey through Eastern France, its towns, cities, and historical landmarks, only scratches the surface of what this fascinating region has to offer. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a culture vulture, an adventure lover, or a seeker of beautiful landscapes, Eastern France is a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be discovered. Pack your bags, and let’s get exploring!
Charming Villages in Eastern France
A journey through Eastern France unveils the charm of numerous quaint villages, each unique in its essence. Explore the beautiful village of Riquewihr in Alsace, with its cobbled streets and half-timbered houses colored like a box of crayons. Venture into the vine-clad hills of Franche-Comté, and you’ll find the picturesque village of Château-Chalon, renowned for its Vin Jaune wine and breathtaking views.
Hidden Gems in Eastern France
Eastern France is dotted with numerous hidden gems that await your discovery. Venture off the beaten path to visit the medieval town of Dole, once home to the scientist Louis Pasteur. Explore the quiet city of Mâcon, which captures a Provençal feel in Southern Burgundy with its pastel-colored buildings and blooming gardens.
Outdoor Activities Near Strasbourg
Strasbourg is more than just a city of history and architecture. Its surroundings are a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Enjoy a leisurely boat tour along the scenic Ill River, or bike through the enchanting forests of the nearby Vosges Mountains. For the more adventurous, the Parc de l’Orangerie offers opportunities for canoeing and paddleboarding.
Wine Tasting Tours in Alsace
Embark on a sensory journey with the finest wine tasting tours in Alsace. Visit the renowned Alsace Wine Route, a 170-kilometer stretch boasting over 1000 wine producers. Experience the diverse range of wines from the region, including the aromatic Gewürztraminer and the light, fruity Pinot Blanc. Each vineyard offers a unique wine tasting experience, often paired with local Alsace cuisine.
Scenic Hikes in the Vosges Mountains
The Vosges Mountains offer a plethora of hiking trails, ranging from leisurely walks to challenging climbs. Traverse the Ballons des Vosges Nature Park, where you can hike to the top of the Grand Ballon, the highest peak in the Vosges. The path rewards hikers with panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes, including the Rhine valley and the Black Forest in the distance.
Historical Castles in the Burgundy Region
The Burgundy region is not just about world-class wines; it’s also home to some of the most historical castles in France. Visit the Château de Châteauneuf, a well-preserved 15th-century castle, offering a stunning panoramic view of the surrounding countryside. Don’t miss the Château de Cormatin, renowned for its beautifully decorated rooms and extensive gardens.
Local Cuisine in Eastern France
The local cuisine of Eastern France is a delightful culinary adventure. Sample the hearty ‘choucroute garnie’, a dish of sauerkraut and various meats, a specialty of Alsace. Or, savor the ‘coq au vin jaune et aux morilles’, a classic dish from Franche-Comté prepared with chicken, creamy sauce, and locally produced Vin Jaune wine.
Road Trip Itinerary through Eastern France
Plan an epic road trip through Eastern France, starting from the Alsace wine region, through the stunning landscapes of the Vosges Mountains, and down to the gastronomic city of Lyon. On the way, stop by charming towns like Colmar, experience wine tasting in Beaune, explore historical sites in Dijon, and marvel at the architectural beauty of Besançon.
Cycling Routes in the Jura Mountains
For cycling enthusiasts, the Jura Mountains present a variety of routes surrounded by lush forests, shimmering lakes, and charming villages. Take the challenging yet rewarding route up to the iconic Pic de l’Aigle, or enjoy a more leisurely ride along the peaceful Val Dessoubre.
Photography Spots in Eastern France
Eastern France is a photographer’s dream come true. Capture the vibrant colors of half-timbered houses in Eguisheim, the panoramic vineyard landscapes of Alsace, or the mesmerizing sunrise over Lake Geneva from Evian-Les-Bains. For architecture enthusiasts, Metz, with its stunning mix of Gothic and contemporary architecture, offers numerous photo opportunities.
Embark on a journey through Eastern France, and let its beauty and charm captivate your heart. Explore more of these experiences in our detailed travel guides, and create memories to last a lifetime.
FAQs about Eastern France:
What are the must-visit cities in Eastern France?
In Eastern France, Strasbourg, Metz, and Dijon are must-visit cities. Each offers a unique blend of history, culture, and gastronomy. Smaller towns like Colmar, Besançon, and Mulhouse also offer a wealth of charm and historical interest.
What is the best time to visit Eastern France?
The best time to visit Eastern France largely depends on what you want to do. For wine-tasting and to enjoy the vibrant colors of vineyards, autumn is ideal. If you’re interested in outdoor activities like hiking and cycling, spring and summer provide pleasant weather. Winter, particularly December, offers magical Christmas markets, especially in Alsace.
What are the popular tourist attractions in Eastern France?
Popular tourist attractions in Eastern France include the Petite France district in Strasbourg, the Pompidou Centre in Metz, and the Palace of the Dukes in Dijon. Other noteworthy sights include the historic city of Besançon with its UNESCO-listed citadel, the beautiful village of Eguisheim in Alsace, and the Burgundy wine region.
Are there any famous wine regions in Eastern France?
Yes, Eastern France is home to some of the world’s most famous wine regions. These include the Alsace region, known for its aromatic white wines, and the Burgundy region, famous for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
What are some traditional dishes to try in Eastern France?
Traditional dishes in Eastern France include choucroute garnie, a hearty dish from Alsace made with sauerkraut and various meats, and coq au vin jaune, a classic dish from the Jura region made with chicken in a creamy sauce with Vin Jaune wine. Don’t miss out on the famous Burgundy snails, a delicacy in the region.
Are there any hiking trails or outdoor activities in Eastern France?
Yes, the Vosges Mountains and the Jura Mountains offer numerous hiking, biking, and skiing opportunities. The region around Strasbourg also offers beautiful routes for boating or canoeing.
How can I travel from Paris to Eastern France?
Traveling from Paris to Eastern France is straightforward with France’s well-connected train system. The high-speed TGV train can get you from Paris to cities like Strasbourg or Dijon in about two hours. Alternatively, you can drive or take a long-distance bus.
Are there any historical sites or castles in Eastern France?
Eastern France is rich in historical sites and castles. Some of the most famous include the Citadel of Besançon, Château de Châteauneuf in Burgundy, Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle in Alsace, and the royal palace Palais des Ducs de Bourgogne in Dijon.
What are the top festivals and events in Eastern France?
Eastern France hosts several festivals and events throughout the year. These include the International Fantasy Film Festival in Gerardmer, the Dijon International and Gastronomic Fair, and the famous Christmas markets in Strasbourg, which are among the best in Europe.
Can you recommend some scenic drives in Eastern France?
Absolutely. The Route des Vins d’Alsace, which winds through picturesque wine villages and vineyards, is one of the most scenic drives in Eastern France. Another great drive is along the Route des Grandes Alpes, which offers spectacular mountain views.