Travel to These 10 Affordable French Cities to Experience France without the Paris Prices
Leah Walker February 6, 2020

Paris is expensive. In fact, the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Worldwide Cost of Living survey named Paris the most expensive city in the EU in 2017. The survey stated that Paris is particularly expensive when considering the cost of clothing and entertainment. For tourists, this means you better be ready to shell out some euros if you plan on visiting one of the most popular travel destinations in the world — the City of Light. However, experiencing the beauty and culture of France doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spend your travels depleting your savings. There are plenty of affordable French cities to visit for a taste of France.

Bordeaux Night Bridge

Travel to these Affordable French Cities

The country is full of vibrant cities and small towns that offer all of the history, cuisine, culture, and points of interest you’re seeking without the cost of the capital city. Here are ten affordable French cities that will give you a taste of France for less.

Nancy France

Nancy

You may be afraid that venturing away from Paris will cause you to miss out on its famous museums, gardens, and more. But the city of Nancy in Lorraine, offers the refinement of the city without the cost. Explore formal gardens, browse the fine museums, and peruse the crystal shops. Much of Nancy was constructed during the 18th century, and you can still feel the riches of the era without having to be rich yourself. It’s definitely an underrated city in Alsace.

Bordeaux Affordable French Cities

Bordeaux

Avid travelers will assure you that Bordeaux rivals Paris in terms of greatness. While not drastically cheaper than the capital city, Bordeaux does offer a bit more affordability, especially when it comes to wine. In fact, you can discover all things wine in Bordeaux, including the legendary Cite du Vin wine museum. Bordeaux offers the French elegance you’re seeking in a unique urban setting, with a hefty dose of the fine red wine that has made the region so famous. For everything Bordeaux, check out Bordeaux Travel Guide, a website from my friends Jennifer and Tim. They’ve lived in Bordeaux for several years and have the scoop on everything from châteaux to restaurants to accommodations.

Montpellier

As a gateway to the southern coast of France and the Mediterranean, Montpellier is an inspiring city packed with gorgeous natural spaces, ancient buildings, and convenient new tram lines. Similar to the capital city, every neighborhood in Montpellier is different, and you can travel through more than 1,000 years of history by exploring them on foot. Strolling through the markets and exploring estates, wine cellars, and more are some of my favorite cost-effective things to do in the city.

Lyon France

Lyon

Commonly known as France’s second city, Lyon is an ideal place to visit for French cuisine and culture without the Paris price tag. It may be smaller than the capital city, but it is home to sites equally as grand, such as the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourviere, the Michelin-starred L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges restaurant, the 117-hectare Parc de la Tete d’Or, ancient Roman structures and more. And you’ll certainly eat well, as Lyonnaise cuisine is legendary.

Toulouse

Just two hours west of Montpelier, Toulouse is the capital of the French region of Occitanie. It’s one of the best French cities for sightseeing on a budget, because simply admiring the pink-tinted buildings and ochre rooftops is worthy of a visit. However, the “Pink City” is also known for its colorful stores, ancient churches, and a charm that simply can’t be found in the hustle and bustle of the capital city.

Dijon FranceDijon

Convinced you can only find the best French history in Paris? You probably haven’t been to Dijon. This city is known for having one of the country’s best preserved medieval centers, and even better, Dijon is easily explored on foot with plenty of pedestrian walking streets. From here, you can easily take day trips to Beaune, the capital of Burgundy wine. Or, you can simply taste those famous Bourgogne wines at one of the many Dijon bars. Museums, annual festivals, and more make Dijon — just two hours from Paris — a worthwhile alternative to the capital city. The city is certainly more than mustard, but that’s pretty tasty too!

Aix-in-Provence Affordable French CitiesAix-en-Provence

The southern France college town of Aix-en-Provence is a place you can enjoy on a college budget, whether you’re a student or not. Shopping the local markets, perusing the art galleries, and walking throughout the gorgeous gardens are several activities you can enjoy without spending a single Euro. The tree-lined Le Cours Mirabeau boulevard is littered with restaurants, shops, cafes, and a weekly street market. For a scenic drive, take the Route Cézanne, the only road in France that is listed as a Historic Monument. It stretches from Aix-en-Provence to Le Tholonet. Aix-en-Provence offers a small town feel with affordable museums and famed cultural sites that rival those in the capital city.

Caen

Paris is a city that seamlessly meshes history with modernity. However, the city of Caen, just two hours from Paris in Normandy, arguably merges the past and present even better than the capital. Here, you can visit the iconic Caen Memorial, found just steps from the D-Day Landing beaches and dedicated to remembering and memorializing the Battle for Caen and World War II.

Caen is also known for its history linked to William the Conqueror, and history buffs will love exploring all of the William the Conqueror sites found throughout the city. Visit the citadel built by William in 1160, his tomb in Abbaye aux Hommes, or explore the Abbey of Sainte-Trinite, founded by Matilda of Flanders (William’s former wife). The Musee des Beaux-Arts de Caen, within the Château de Caen, is another must-visit site in this city that will transport you back in time while offering all of the modern amenities you crave.

Angers France Cathedral

Angers

The Loire Valley is a central French region that’s guaranteed to surpass your expectations with unbeatable cuisine, natural beauty, ancient castles, and more. Even better, the Loire Valley is known for its variety of award-winning wines, including white, red, rose, and more. Angers is a city that embodies all of the beauty and culture of the region, including a gorgeous old town region, ideal for shopping, strolling, and people watching. Travelers can also visit the 37-hectare Saint Nicolas Park, hike the path along the Maine River, and explore the weekend markets without spending a single euro.

Tours Affordable French Cities

Tours

Known as the gateway to the Loire Valley, Tours is a historic yet lively city offering the charm of Paris without the tourist crowds and prices. Simply wandering around Place Plumereau and admiring the half-timbered homes will remind you that you are indeed in one of the most beautiful places in France. Tours is also known for its award-winning bistros, iconic Saint-Gatien Cathedral, the Tours castle, and countless other museums and sights. It’s a city that will keep you as enamored {and busy} as Paris, but in the heart of the gorgeous Loire Valley.

French culture and cuisine isn’t meant to break the bank, and venturing just a short distance from Paris can make a major difference in your spending. Explore any of these affordable French cities to experience the elegance, natural beauty, and charm of France without burning a hole in your pocket.



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Leah Walker

Leah has a marketing management company specializing in strategy, content creation and implementation for luxury brands and destinations. She's also a luxury travel and food writer who has as many stories as she does shoes. Leah documents her experiences whether that's in the lap of luxury or riding through a swamp in an airboat. She sometimes freelances and has contributor/editor roles with The Daily Meal, USA Today 10 Best, Bonjour Paris, France Today, Luxe Beat Magazine, Four Seasons Magazine, Forbes Travel Guide, and is a travel and wine ambassador for Atout France USA. Leah's lived in Paris for four years, and was awarded additional time with a Passeport Talent visa renewal. Though, her talent for speaking French is abysmal.

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