The Most Charming Towns of Eastern France

View of the historic town of Colmar, also known as Little Venice, with tourists taking a boat ride along traditional colorful houses on idyllic river Lauch, Colmar, Alsace, France
Image by depositphotos.com

If you’re looking for a beautiful, peaceful vacation spot in France, look no further than the charming towns of Eastern France. From quaint medieval villages to bustling cities with vibrant charm, you’ll fall in love with Eastern France. Let’s explore some of the most charming towns in Eastern France that are worth visiting.



Eastern France Road Trip

Avenue de Champagne
Avenue de Champagne. Credit: Erin Blakely

Driving in Eastern France is a great way to explore the charming towns of this part of the world. With picturesque highways and roads winding through rolling hills, you can take your time and enjoy the scenery as you make your way from one town to another.

Most travelers begin this journey from Paris; our first town is only 2 hours away. The roads are generally well maintained, so driving is easy to navigate. Plus, with plenty of parking available in most places, so you don’t have to stress about too many details. Having a car makes it convenient to hop out of your vehicle to explore a particular area or stop for lunch. However, train travel is also possible but less convenient.

Helpful Driving Tips

Driving in Eastern France can be a great way to explore some of the charming towns you would otherwise miss. However, it’s important to remember a few helpful tips when driving here. For American drivers, it’s an easy place to get around since it’s also on the right side of the road. You must carry a valid driving license and be at least 18 years old to drive in France.

France has speed cameras and radars on most of their highways and roads. So be aware if you think you avoided being pulled over, they may ticket by plate. However, by following France’s driving laws, you’ll find this is a delightful way to see Eastern France. 

Reims

Reims France
Reims. Credit: Erin Blakely

Reims is located approximately two hours from Paris. It is known for its history, stunning architecture, and of course, champagne!

The city center of Reims is full of historic buildings, charming streets, and plenty of cafes and restaurants to explore. You can also see the Palace of Tau or Fort de la Pompelle from WWI. 

For those who love history, two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Reims are worth a detour, the Reims Cathedral of Notre Dame and Saint Remi Basilica. Built in 1275, the Cathedral is known for its detailed Gothic-style architecture and beautiful stained glass windows. It is the site where French kings were once crowned. Saint Remi Basilica is equally unique in its own right, dating back to the 11th century with stunning Romanesque architecture.

Reims is known as the capital of Champagne, so it’s only fitting to visit some of the famous Champagne houses such as Taittinger, Pommery, and Veuve Clicquot. Many of these houses offer tours and tastings. In addition, you can visit some of the smaller, family-owned vineyards and learn about the Champagne-making process.

Epernay

Epernay France
Epernay. Credit: Erin Blakely

While in the Champagne region, Epernay is another stunningly beautiful town in the Marne department of Eastern France. While it has some similarities to Reims, it has unique differences making it another worthy stop along your Eastern France journey. Plus, Reims and Epernay are close in proximity (29.3 km), making them both easy to visit on a day trip. 

Epernay is known for its world-famous Champagne vineyards, such as Moet & Chandon, Pol Roger, and Perrier-Jouët. Avenue de Champagne is among the world’s most prestigious and expensive avenues. Approximately 1 km long, you can stroll between the luxury champagne houses and enjoy as many tours or tastings as possible in one day. Some champagne houses even offer elegant lodging on-site; you won’t have to travel beyond the avenue.

Epernay also boasts delicious restaurants serving traditional French cuisine paired perfectly with local wines and champagnes. For a culinary experience, you’ll want to check out the Michelin-star restaurant, Le Royal, just outside town. With so much to offer travelers, there’s no wonder why tourists flock to Epernay each year.

Riquewihr

Riquewihr France
Riquewihr. Credit: Erin Blakely

The small village of Riquewihr is a must-see destination for travelers exploring Eastern France. Located on the Alsace Wine Route, this picturesque village dates back to the Middle Ages, and it’s easy to see why it is considered one of the most beautiful villages in France. With its cobblestone streets, half-timbered houses, and colorful flower beds, Riquewihr looks like something straight out of a fairy tale surrounded by vineyards. 

Visitors can enjoy delicious local German food or browse through unique shops selling traditional items like pottery and wooden toys. While in Riquewihr, make time for a wine tasting from a local vineyard such as Hugel et Fils, which has been around for centuries. You’ll find some of the best white wines in France, especially Riesling.

Colmar

Colmar France
Colmar. Credit: Erin Blakely

Colmar is a charming town in the Grand Est region (previously Alsace), a region on the French-German border just 14.3 km south of Riqewihr. Over the course of history, it was a part of both Germany and France, and you can see the influences in the local cuisine and architecture. 

Colmar offers more to do than the small village of Riqewihr and has a similar old-world charm. Many colorful buildings date back to the 9th century, making it feel like you have stepped back in time. Colmar has plenty of things to do, from wine tastings to exploring the Unterlinden Museum, which holds the Isenheim Altarpiece.

Colmar’s Old Town is a must-visit walking along Grand Rue. This picturesque walk is full of rainbow-colored businesses and homes on the canal. One of the best times to visit is during Christmas, and you’ll see balconies and shops decorated like a movie set!

Strasbourg

Strasbourg, France - on the canal of la Petite France
Image by deposit photos.com

Located close to Colmar is Strasbourg, one of the most beautiful cities in France. Often people choose it as a base location since it is the capital city of the Grand Est region with more museums, shops, restaurants, and peaceful parks for a day of fun and leisure.

It has a vibrant history, and its cobbled streets are lined with stunning architecture dating back centuries. Some of the more popular things to do include a visit to the Cathedral Notre Dame de Strasbourg or marvel at the half-timbered homes in La Petite France. This part of town has some picture-perfect footbridges that are definitely instaworthy!

Additionally, there is plenty to explore during your stay, such as art galleries and museums, as well as shopping districts where you can pick up some souvenirs or unique items for yourself or your friends back home.

Annecy

Annecy seashore
Annecy. Credit: Erin Blakely

If you want to experience something really special during your trip to Eastern France, then Annecy should be on your list. This gorgeous lakeside town is known for its stunning views over Lac d’Annecy, one of Europe’s cleanest natural bodies of water. In addition to its mesmerizing landscape, Annecy also boasts plenty of activities to keep visitors occupied, such as canoeing, kayaking, and swimming in the summer months. Skiing and snowboarding in the nearby mountains are popular during the winter months.

For a more leisurely day, make a stop at Jardins de l’Europe, Annecy’s largest park, for a perfect day place to enjoy the lake and take a stroll along the water. Annecy is also home to several great restaurants offering delicious food, as well as an array of bars and clubs for those who wish to hit up the nightlife scene!

Chamonix-Mont-Blanc

Chamonix
Chamonix. Credit: Erin Blakely

If you’re looking for the best winter sports town with stunning views, then Chamonix must be on your list. It’s roughly 100 km or 1-hour drive from Annecy, making it ideal for a day trip or weekend getaway.

This stunningly beautiful mountain town is situated in the French Alps. It’s known for its spectacular scenery, breathtaking views, and year-round activities that are perfect for outdoorsy travelers. From skiing and snowboarding to hiking and rock climbing, you’ll love the mountain views at every angle. For the thrill seeker, you’ll get out-of-this-world views from a paragliding tour descending from Le Brévent. 

Chamonix also has plenty of shops, restaurants, bars, and clubs where you can relax with friends after a day on the slopes. With its incredible views of Mont Blanc – Europe’s highest peak – this charming town is definitely worth visiting! 

One of the most unique features about Mont Blanc is that it sits on the border of France and Italy, while also straddling the edge of Switzerland. So you could see three countries in one day! While in Chamonix, make time to see Mer de Glace (Sea of Ice), the largest ice glacier in the French Alps. You’ll walk through an ice tunnel, ride an old red train, and learn about its unique history at a small museum.

Lyon

Lyon cityscape from Saone river with colorful houses and river
Lyon. Image by depositphotos.com

Sometimes larger cities lose the charming characteristics of small towns. However, this is not the case for Lyon. The third largest city beckons visitors annually for being the gastronomic capital of France. You’ll want to make time for a delicious meal at Le Poivron Bleu or one of the other 91 Michelin star restaurants in Lyon. 

Beyond the culinary experience, you’ll also appreciate the historical significance of ancient Roman ruins. There are two Roman theaters located in the Odeon and the Fourvière area of Lyon.

Final Thoughts

Eastern France offers so much more than just stunning scenery – it has abundant culture too. With it being an easy commute from Paris, you’ll find many fun things to do here. So whether you want a peaceful getaway with time spent admiring nature or an exciting city break full of activities, these charming towns have it all!

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