Brimming with beautiful cities and picturesque villages, it’s no wonder the beauty of France has inspired great dreamers like Walt Disney. 

From the divine department of Dordogne to the luscious Loire Valley, turreted castles hidden in smoky clouds of southern France to those rising out of the waters off Normandy’s coastline, discover these six French destinations that will take you from daydreaming to fairy tale adventures.

Dordogne Landscape

Fairytale France: Dordogne

Discover Dordogne

Nestled between the lush Loire Valley and picturesque Pyrenees mountains, the Dordogne defines beauty and wonder in southwestern France. Well-known for its spectacular prehistoric cave paintings, pastoral green meadows and vineyards romantically wrapped around chateaux and honey-stone bastides, the region embodies the heart and soul of La belle France.

Although Belle’s town and the Beast’s castle are technically works of fiction dreamt up by the talented artists of Beauty and the Beast, you’d easily be forgiven for thinking that the Dordogne’s quaint charm and cobbled streets were the basis for the would-be princess’s hometown.

Beauty isn’t just surface level here; according to locals, even the French word amour’, meaning love, comes from the word ameur’ in Occitan — the ancient Romance language that was once the patois of the region. That proud heritage preserves in how the region is colloquially broken down today: you have Périgord (the valley’s moniker before the country’s historic provinces were renamed during the French Revolution) Pourpre (purple) which indicates the valley’s winegrowing regions around Bergerac; Périgord Noir (black) for the dark oak forests around the Vézère Valley; Périgord Blanc (white) named after the limestone hills around the region’s capital, Périgueux; and Périgord Vert (green) for the forested regions of the north.

Aside from exploring these stunning quadrants, the Dordogne is the perfect playground for all sorts of creative activities: whether you like painting landscapes, are keen to learn more about the art of glassblowing or are intrigued by fish leather”, a number of tours are available. 

And for foodies, you’re in luck. Combining a natural love for seasonal fruits of the land with duck, goose and beautiful black truffles, cuisine hailing from the Dordogne is simply sensational. Pair it with from a glass of sweet Monbazillac from Bergerac and you’re in for a treat.


Fairytale France: Colmar

Be charmed by Colmar

The capital of the Alsace in the Grand Est region of north-eastern France, Colmar looks as if it’s been plucked from the pages of a folk tale. Amongst its half-timbered houses in crayola-box colours, flower-lined canals and cobblestoned streets, Colmar is a strong contender for being one of the most beautiful villages in France.

Situated near the border with Germany on the Alsace Wine Route, local vineyards specialise in Riesling and Gewürztraminer wines and if you want to try the former at its finest, make time for a daytrip to the village of Riquewihr, known as the Gem of the Alsace Vineyards’, tucked away beneath the shadow of the Vosges mountains.

If you need more reasons to visit Alsace or want to explore more in the region with your S.O., here’s how to have a romantic holiday in Strasbourg.

Sunset mont st michel

Fairytale France: Mont St Michel

The majesty of Mont St Michel

Once upon a time there was a holy island perched on the shores of northern France accessible only when the tides were low enough to reveal a secret walkway. Rising out of the sea like a mirage, while today the magical Mont St Michel can be visited by bridge, boat or kayak, its mystique continues to capture the hearts of all who lay eyes on the islet. 

Said to have inspired Disney’s Rapunzel’s home for the film Tangled, while visitors may not meet the princess, no one leaves Mont St Michel disappointed. As one of the country’s most visited attractions, the UNESCO World Heritage Site draws 3 million people each year to see the castle that has served as a monastic abbey, prison, and fortress over the years. After a day of exploring the island commune where just 44 people Iive in real life, explore Normandy’s other highlights including the medieval treasures of Honfleur and Barfleur, nineteenth-century resorts of Etretat and Trouville, Richard the Lionheart’s castle at Les Andelys, and of course, Monet’s waterlily-filled garden at Giverny.

With medieval architecture and a gothic cathedral that was once the tallest building in the world, no trip to Normandy would be complete without visiting Rouen. Home to the final resting place of Rollo the Viking and where Joan of Arc was allegedly burned at the stake, the city lays claim to being the historic capital of the region.

Chauteau Chenonceaujpg

Fairytale France: Château de Chenonceau

Château de Chenonceau, France

Dubbed France’s Valley of the Kings, the Loire Valley is a treasure trove of beautiful castles and Château de Chenonceau is the crown jewel. 

Built overlooking the river Cher on the site of an old mill, the château is one of the most photographed spots in the region. 

Spend a day exploring the grounds including a visit to the Château Museum featuring Flemish tapestries or make your way from room to room appreciating the restored architecture that gives the impression that time has stopped still. A venture outside should include a stroll through the Flower Garden and circular labyrinth or alternatively, book a canoe and paddle though the perimeter of the grounds for a unique perspective.

Once you’ve had your fill, don’t forget to visit some of the nearby historic towns including Orléans and Tours, both of which provide ample opportunities to take in the local beauty of Pays de la Loire. 

City of Chambery Mountain View

Fairytale France: Chambéry

Check out Chambéry

As the capital of the department and the historical capital of the Savoy, Chambéry packs a punch when it comes to tourism offerings. Aside from trips to the beautiful Lake Annecy, its charming old town paired with an enviable location on the doorsteps of Chartreuse and Bauges Natural Parks and close proximity to the majestic Lac du Bourget, the deepest and biggest natural lake of glacial origin in France, makes Chambéry a must-visit hotspot. 

If you’re missing the hustle and bustle of large city life, Chambéry is a stone’s throw away from France’s second city, Lyon, whose elegant architecture, vibrant nightlife, and exceptional cuisine — best experienced in Lyon’s Bouchons — can be enjoyed in less than an hour’s drive away. 

Chambéry also engages in the Alpine Town of the Year Association for the implementation of the Alpine Convention to achieve sustainable development in the Alpine Arc making it a fantastic location for green and conscious travellers looking to travel more responsibly. 


Fairytale France: Carcassonne

Captivating Carcassonne

A fortified medieval city placed atop a rocky hill, the beautifully restored and recreated Carcassonne is the largest citadel in Europe. Featuring 52 towers, stout walls and spiky turrets rising into the clouds, the UNESCO World Heritage Site looks like something out of a storybook.

Wander through the Cité Médiévale, as the old walled town is now known, to explore the citadel’s interior maze of cobbled lanes and courtyards, now mostly lined by shops and restaurants, and its authentic drawbridge in the main gate of Porte Narbonnaise, or cross the Pont Vieux at the base of the ramparts to visit the Bastide Saint-Louis.

Once you’ve had your fill, take a boat trip on the charming Canal du Midi, originally built to link the Atlantic with the Mediterranean sea, and head to visit Toulouse for the weekend.

If you’re keen to visit provincial cities packed with charm but without the crowds of the Pink City, be sure to stay in the town of Albi or the siesta-loving, Spanish-influenced city of Perpignan, the former continental capital of the kingdom of Majorca. 

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