Not just the Cote d’Azur: The most interesting coastal towns in France
French port and resort cities are extremely diverse and not as expensive as Nice or Cannes. We’ve gathered the most curious ones!
Saint-Jean-de-Luz, southwest France
This is quite atypical for the Atlantic coast of France: the beach here is protected from the strong ocean winds on three sides. In 1660 in Saint-Jean-de-Luz King-Sun Louis XIV was married to Maria Theresa of Spain.
The cityscape looks like a postcard: white houses with red roofs, sandy beach and sea. Nearby is Biarritz, a popular surfing spot. It’s a great place to visit if you want to take a few lessons. St Jean de Luz is also notable for its cuisine, try the freshly caught mussels and the sheep milk ice-cream which is considered a local speciality.
Trouville-sur-Mer, northern France
Trouville-sur-Mer, in the Calvados department, is considered a great place to relax by the sea thanks to its 19th-century promenade with seaside restaurants and shops. The beach itself is literally gigantic, so even during peak tourist season there’s room for everyone. The old villas, scattered over the local hills, are of superb architecture and the attractions include an old fishing village near the active harbour and the landing place of the Allied troops on 6 June 1944.
Sete, South of France
The bustling port town of Sete is on the Mediterranean coast of France. The main local attraction is a narrow 13-kilometer strip of land to the west of the city, which separates the sea and the salty Lake Tho. There are plenty of beaches on this stretch, so it’s not as crowded as other resorts in the region. Sete is known for its water fights (joutes nautiques) – a semblance of knights’ tournaments on the water, which have been practiced since the Middle Ages. In addition, this city has excellent seafood restaurants.
Honfleur, Northern France
Honfleur resembles more than other French cities without access to the sea. It sits at the confluence of the Seine with the English Channel; the once bustling port was built in the 16th century, and the houses next to it date from the same period. Later the port was moved to the larger Le Havre, and Honfleur has become more of a historical landmark.
It is also worth visiting for its scenery, which was admired by Monet – the city appears in a series of his works. The church of St. Catherine, built by shipbuilders, as well as the botanical garden by the sea are worth a visit. The beaches nearby catch crabs, which crawl into rocky hollows at low tide.
The French believe that Corsica has the most beautiful beaches – with white sand, turquoise sea and pink cliffs. The village of Pigna is located on a mountainside not far from Bastia, the main island port. Despite its proximity, the village still offers a sense of distance from the hustle and bustle of the city. Corsicans have always been proud of their independence.
The island joined France only in the 18th century. Traditions and family customs are trying to be followed even now. Thanks to this, authentic cuisine with recipes, such as civet de sanglier, wild boar stewed in red wine, was preserved.
Marseille, South of France
Marseille is an iconic French city and a great choice for those who want to visit the Mediterranean coast of the country but cannot afford Cannes or Saint-Tropez.
One of the most important new museums in France, the Museum of Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean, as well as the historic Fort Saint-Jean, are located in the vicinity of the old port. Nearby are wide beaches, which attract mainly families with small children, as well as rocky coves, perfect for diving.
The nearby village of Le Goud is a passageway to Calanc de Marseille, a rocky coastal area with plenty of places for picnics and other beach activities.
Biarritz, Southwest France
Biarritz is a rich and beautiful city on the Atlantic coast. Emperor Napoleon III turned it into a fashionable resort when he arrived here in 1854 with his wife, Eugenie. Subsequently, the whole European monarchy – from British Queen Victoria to the Spanish King Alfonso XIII – stayed here. This could not fail to bring popularity to the city.
With its proximity to the Spanish border Biarritz cuisine is a perfect mix of both countries. Surfing is great off the coast of Biarritz – every July there is a festival.
Ault, northern France
With a population of only 1,500, this town rarely makes it into tourist guides, because of its proximity to the ports of Dieppe and Calais, many travelers arriving there simply pass through without stopping. However, this obscurity is the charm of Olt. There are virtually no boutique hotels or posh restaurants. Instead, you can embrace the unhurried local way of life, admire the white cliffs and pebble beaches, or check out the traditional bars and restaurants. The best place to start exploring the city is the bar La Flibustiere (address – 5 Boulevard Michel Couillet). The owner of the institution converted the living room and terrace of his own house into it. From there you have a beautiful view on the beaches and cliffs below. You can also stay overnight at La Flibustiere. Guests are served breakfast, the perfect start for a walk along the beaches with beautiful views all around.