Regional gems of France
French regions like Champagne and Provence often grab the limelight, but there are plenty of other corners of the country worth exploring in detail. Here are five gems in the south-west to consider in your next itinerary, each rich with superb food and wine.
The grandest city of western France is an architectural gem and home to the world’s largest urban World Heritage area. Its elegant boulevards and regal Place de la Bourse are lined with classical French buildings that form the greatest collection of heritage architecture outside Paris, while the Garonne river links the city with the world-renowned vineyards that surround it.
Located in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, the medieval town of Cognac is a cluster of narrow cobbled streets alongside the river Charente. The Chateau de Cognac is the birthplace of King Francis I, but most visitors come for the legendary spirit that bears this town’s name, converging on the many famous Cognac houses like Remy Martin and Hennessy.
With its own distinct culture and language, the French Basque Country provides an intriguing link between France and the Basque lands of northern Spain, yet somehow manages to assert a unique identity of its own. Its beaches line the Bay of Biscay and are renowned for their surf breaks, while the interior offers sleepy rural villages scattered towards the foothills of the Pyrenees.
Dordogne & Perigord
Dordogne and Perigord offer rich landscapes of medieval villages, country chateaux and Romanesque churches, and are famous for French delicacies like foie gras and black truffles. The area is also home to some of the greatest ancient treasures of Europe, with hundreds of prehistoric sites including the renowned Lascaux Cave with its 17,000-year-old cave paintings.
One of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution, Landes is tucked against the Atlantic Ocean in the region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine. Its magnificent sandy beaches and dunes stretch for miles, while the vast pine forests and lakes of the Landes de Gascogne nature park provide a serene landscape in which to hike, cycle or kayak.