Summer is here, and that means some of the most breathtaking destinations of Europe will come to life in their best beautiful form, offering you just the perfect escapade from the sweltering heat at home. Travelling to Europe and not visiting the exotic France doesn’t quite add up. Right? Adding to the charm of already dreamy French locales is a summer-special train service to different cities operated by rail company SNCF. The train services will run from June 29 to September 3, and the French rail company has already started accepting bookings. Unsurprisingly, the tickets sell like hot cakes, especially for peak holiday periods and on popular routes. As a result, the ticket prices escalate quickly, almost quadrupling by the time the journeys commence.
If you are considering a French holiday this summer, this train journey experience must feature on your bucket list. Here are some lesser-known but promising cities you can explore on your trip:
This hidden French gem has it all – a young vibe, splendid beach, Mediterranean sunshine, and great food scene. Start off your tour of Montpellier with its most iconic landmark, the Place de la Comédie – the city centre with a statue of the Three Graces, which is Montpellier’s emblematic goddesses. The old part of the city dotted with hôtels particuliers and erstwhile wine merchant’s sprawling mansions with impeccable courtyards has all the elements to transport you to the alleys of history. The Musée Fabre museum containing one of the richest collections of European art in all of France is another key highlight of the city.
Set in the heart of France’s wine producing region, Bordeaux is a port city known for its Gothic architecture, with many of its exalted structures featuring in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Site. The elegant Place de la Bourse that is built around the Three Graces fountains with its imposing image reflection in the Miroir d’Eau pool, Cathédrale Saint-André, ancient mansions and art museums including the famous Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux, curving river docks dotted with lush gardens are just some of the things that make Bordeaux a city of enchanting character. It is best explored on a bike, allowing you just the right pace to appreciate the breathtaking views and the local culture dominated by funky restaurants and vintage stores. The international wine museum, the Cité du Vin, a short distance from Bordeaux, is a must-visit for an unforgettable tasting experience and loads of insightful information.
This walled town in eastern France is the main centre of the wine-making region of Burgundy. Apart from its world-class wines, the region is best known as culinary heaven with a fascinatingly rustic cuisine. The cobbled town characterized by its array of colourful roof tiles arranged in geometric patterns has an unmistakable old-world charm to it. The whole appeal of the place is escalated several notches by experiences such as annual wine auction at the Hospices de Beaune and the Van der Weyden’s altarpiece The Last Judgement on display at the Hôtel-Dieu Museum. Make time to explore the surrounding wine villages with sprawling vineyards on gentle slopes and ancient stone walls criss-crossing through. The train journey to Beaune includes a pit stop in Lyon, the gastronomic capital of France, which is definitely an added bonus.
A city on the banks of Loire River, Nantes has a lot of fun and exciting experiences in store for traveller of every kind. The main draw card for tourists is the Île de Loire island on Loire, where a 12-metre high robotic elephant stomps around carrying people on its back. At a first glance, the elephant looks like a spitting image of the Trojan Horse. Back in the city, the Château des Ducs de Bretagne, a castle that was once home to the Dukes of Brittany, is worth checking out for its sheer history and grandeur. Nantes comes across as a city of idiosyncratic character with whimsical art installations dotting its street, joined by a green line running across the pavements.
Imagine a quintessential French destination flanked by a lake, thriving under the gaze of towering snow-clad mountains. Annecy, with its fairytale-esque appeal, is a joy to behold and explore. It’s a charming old town, with a laidback character, criss-crossed with canals, restaurants serving Savoyard cuisine, and alpine homes characterized by window boxes brimming with geranium flowers. The Palais de l’Ile, a 12th century prison and courthouse complex, a pedalo ride on the lake, the Château d’Annecy, cycling tour of the town’s outskirts, and a trip to the walking trails of the Aravis mountains must definitely feature on your itinerary.