Two roads diverged in a wood and I –
– Robert Frost
We all know how that went down. While in France, don’t just party at Paris, taste wine at Bordeaux and castle watch at Loire valley. There’s so much more to France than all this. Catch a glimpse and more of these unusual things to do in France and blaze your own path in France.
Robert Frost sure knew what he was talking about. And we sure do know our vacations!
I love you Wall, Paris
They didn’t lie when they called Paris the city of love. Sample this 430 sq ft wall in Montmartre created by calligraphist Fédéric Baron and mural artist Claire Kito. It features “I love you” written 311 times in 250 different languages – from every major language to rare ones like Navajo and Esperanto.
The red blots at places are meant to represent pieces of broken hearts.
Must read: Things to do on your honeymoon in France
Le Palais Ideal, France
So you have seen the opulent Palace of Versailles or the postcard-perfect Luxembourg Palace. In the town of Hauterives, meet the first ever Ideal Palace. Often described as something of a cross between Angkor Wat and La Sagrada Familia, Le Palais Ideal was built single-handedly by a postman in the 19th century.
The story follows that the postman Ferdinand Cheval tripped on a peculiarly shaped rock on his way to work and was inspired to build this palace in a matter of 34 years. In fact, he designed his own vault in the local cemetery that to this day reads:
Ghost town of Oradour
Oradour appears in the horizon like another quaint French village with an outline of buildings. But as you get closer, something seems amiss. The quiet is unsettling.
Welcome to the Nazi ravaged town of Oradour. Burnt down in 1944 by the Nazis, inhabitants of the town were murdered on the street. To this day, the remnants of town are preserved as a reminder of the dark past.
Want to skip the morbid? Here are some fun things to try out instead.
Labyrinthine des Dragons, Peaugres
If losing yourself in one of the buzzing arrondissements of Paris isn’t exciting enough, head south to the Peaugres National Park. Home to one-of-a-kind mirror maze, Labyrinthe des Dragons was designed by Adrian Fisher to give a person the impression of “endless possibilities” by using false turns.
Next time you are lost, count your lucky stars that you aren’t in the Labyrinthe des Dragons. Or if you like a challenge, test your wits here.
Point Zero, Paris
In France, all roads lead to Point Zero. Known as the absolute centre of the city and the country, Point Zero is marked by an octagonal brass plate in the Notre Dame Square. As with most iconic places, this place has inspired a flurry of bizarre traditions. Try:
- Spinning in a circle on foot while wishing on your heart’s deepest desire to make it come true
- Kiss your loved one atop the brass plate to ensure you will be together. Forever and always.
- Place a coin on the plate and make your wish
Try one of these or just do your own thing. But, first, book this vacation.
Jules Verne’s Tomb, Amiens
Only ever heard of 20,000 leagues under the sea, Mysterious Island and Journey to the centre of the Earth or watched them on television? Nonetheless, for everyone who considers themselves a science fiction aficionado, this is a must do. With a tomb as eccentric and outlandish as the worlds Verne has been credited with creating, a visit to the Jules Verne tomb is a must-do among all the unusual places to visit in France.
Designed by Albert Roze, the tomb shows a shrouded figure of Jules Verne breaking his own tombstone and emerging from the grave.
Traboules Secret Passages, Lyon
After vying the castles, a leisurely walk in the park and some gourmet food tasting, fancy some good old mystery in the city of Lyon? One of the most unusual things to do in France – discover and walk among the Traboules – the secret passages of Lyon.
Built as an instrument to help people seek shelter and save their belongings from terrible weather, the Traboules even allowed resistance to prevent Nazis from occupying the entire city during the Second World War.
Located in the Old Quarter of Lyon, out of the 400 Traboules, only 40 odd ones are open to the public today. The longest one runs between 54 Rue Saint-Jean and 27 Rue du Bœuf.
Must read: Best things to do in Lyon
La Tete Carrée Library, Nice
Not a bookworm? Nevertheless, the Central Library of Nice or La Tete Carrée Library is a must visit while checking out the offbeat places to visit in France. Hosted inside a peculiar sculpture, the structure has been called Thinking Inside the Box.
Showcasing a cube-shaped sculpture with protruding chin and shoulders, the floors of the library become visible by the night when they are illuminated. Art lovers and book fanatics! Here’s something nice to obsess over in Nice.
Clermont Ferrand Cathedral
One of its kind, Clermont Ferrand is made entirely of black lava rocks. Erected over a 10th-century crypt, although the cathedral’s construction begun in the 1200s, it wasn’t completed until 1902.
Sitting atop a hill in the town of Clermont Ferrand, the cathedral paints an ominous picture from afar but is actually a gorgeous piece of art with stained glass windows dating back to 13th and 14th century.
Related: Best places to stay at in France
Spanning over the Ardèche River is the natural stone-bridge of Pont d’Arc that has been carved out of solid stone over millennia. Located 5 km away from the town of Vallon Pont d’Arc, it is a popular place to swim, canoe and kayak.
A short walk away is Chauvet Pont d’Arc – a cave known for its ancient cave paintings dating back to 30,000 years ago.
You have seen, heard and felt what the past is like. It’s time you have smelt what it’s like too. And, no, we don’t mean the cemetery… At Osmotheque, grab an essence of what the past was like. Based in Versailles, Osmotheque is the world’s first international scent archive.
Be assured of a whirlwind of olfactory experiences what with the Osmotheque storing over 3,000 perfumes. For those intrigued, there is a reference library that keeps record of all perfumes ever made.
Enter the Osmotheque!
Interesting read: Europe’s most picturesque towns
Move over, Macaroons
Yes, they are absolutely pretty, make for aesthetic pictures and are bite-sized pieces of heaven. Once you have stopped fawning over them and want to try something different or unusual, grab a box of Quernons. Coated with delectable violet chocolate, they are essentially almond or hazelnut centred caramelized nougats/pralines.
Originating in the Loire region of France, it was first created by master chocolatier René Maillot. The colour of this little chocolate square is said to be inspired by the slate roofs that decorate castles in the Loire region.
Related: Must eats in Paris
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