For all it offers in terms of big city appeal, some of the best destinations in France are somewhat off the beaten path. There are seemingly countless small towns spread throughout the French countryside that offer quaint charm, natural beauty and a rich sense of culture. There's no denying that walking the city streets has considerable appeal, but sometimes getting away from these hubs of activity is a must, and there are a few that stand out above the rest.
Located in the northeast corner of France, Colmar isn't all that small population-wise - it's home to about 65,000 people - but it does exude an atmosphere that's much more low-key than other cities in Europe. Perhaps most appealing is the rich sense of history that's evident around every corner. Colmar was founded in the 9th century, and many of its buildings date back centuries. They range from residences, such as the 16th-century Maison Pfiste, to churches, including the stunning Église Saint-Martin. It's also a good idea to take a canoe down one of the town's unique canals - certainly an unusual way to see Colmar.
Arguably one of the most beautiful towns in France, Gordes is situated in the southeast corner and has been a staple of the countryside since the Roman Empire. Gordes is unusual in that it is built into a rocky hillside, but it is this unique construction that gives it such considerable appeal. Walking the streets of Gordes not only makes it feel as if you're taking a walk through history, but during the summer, the town is lined with works from local artists, deeming this small town a cultural hotspot.
Although it's located more toward the middle of the country, Beynac-et-Cazenac's placement along the Dordogne River makes it the perfect waterfront getaway. With a population of just over 500, the town is largely removed from city living, and because it is built alongside cliffs the views are hard to top. There are a number of different ways to experience Beynac-et-Cazenac, but whether you want to peruse the shops that line its centuries-old streets or simply admire the scenery, either option is sure to leave a lasting impression long after you've headed home.