Whilst Paris is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and interesting cities in the world, those willing to venture outside of the capital will get a taste of what a fantastically diverse country France is. These 3 cities certainly celebrate this diversity.
If you are a foodie, then there are few better places to explore this passion than the gastronomical capital of the world, Lyon. But one warning - be prepared to be adventurous. Open-mindedness is necessary on any trip to Lyon, as Lyonnais chefs tend to have an aversion to wastage and a far wider bracket of what constitutes food than other parts of Europe. If you order meat here, expect to find the whole animal on your plate! Veal heads, pig’s brains, cow tongues - it is all edible. It is no understatement that meat features in pretty much everything in Lyon so do not be surprised when you stumble upon foie gras and ham macarons when looking for something sweet. And certainly do not order a salad with the impression that you are getting a vegetarian option; traditional Lyonnais salad is inundated with delicious crispy lardons.
Say goodbye to your usual local convenience store and hello to Les Halles de Lyon – an incredible indoor market stretching 56 stalls. These quality establishments sell the freshest of produce ranging from seafood, snails, cheese and very expensive wine. A visit to this market guarantees quite an elaborate shopping experience, and also offers tasters and lunch opportunities in abundance. Les Halles de Lyon epitomises what Lyon is all about; food, food, and more food.
But the best thing about Lyon is how it appears relatively undiscovered by tourism. This makes it far easier to merge in with the locals, making any visit that bit more authentic. When or if you get bored of eating your way round this city, there is no shortage of places of historical interest. Whether you get the funicular up to the elegant Basilica Notre Dame, step into Roman Catholic traditions at Lyon Cathedral, or simply stroll the streets of Renaissance history in the Vieux Lyon district, you are guaranteed to enjoy yourself in this vastly fascinating city.
Leaving our appetites in Lyon, those with a taste for gambling will find themselves very much at home in Monaco. Widely known as the Las Vegas of Europe, Monaco boasts of being one of the most extravagantly rich destinations in the world. This lavish lifestyle is an experience that is well worth trying once, so save up and try not to forget your wallet or purse!
As Monaco is home to the world famous Monte Carlo Casino, you best get some practice online before you arrive at the lavish in-house tables! It is likely that much of your time with be spent here, so you might as well benefit from some free slots and roulette spins before you get on the plane in order to remove any ring rust. As the above shows, the building is spectacular and is not just a casino - inside there is also an opera and ballet house. It has also featured in several famous films such as James Bond classics, GoldenEye and Casino Royale. Those visiting should be aware that the dress code is formal. Entry is a modest 10 euros, but you can make this money back if you are on form!
Gambling aside, there is far more to Monaco than just spending time at the roulette table. Car lovers will naturally be enamoured by the calibre of supercars in every direction, plus those interested in F1 racing will be aware that Monaco hosts one of the most famous Grand Prix in the world. To quickly revisit the world of food, Monaco also provides ample opportunity to enjoy some of the finest Michelin Star dining in the country. Whether you choose to gamble, dine, or shop, it is fair to say that Monaco is a city of pure luxury and indulgence.
If quant and chilled does it for you, then Strasbourg is the perfect place to spend a leisurely weekend. Although seemingly tranquil, in the past Strasbourg has been the subject of conflict between France and Germany. Having changed ownership an astonishing 4 times between 1870 and 1944, it is no surprise that the city has elements of both French and German culture running through its veins.
La Petite France is one of the most Instagram-worthy parts of France you could imagine, this historic district surrounding the canal giving plenty of opportunities for photos, picnics and people-watching. It certainly carries a certain French elegance and is charming in every respect. But the architecture appears to be inspired by German styles; all the buildings are timber framed in true German fashion. Speaking of impressive buildings, you literally cannot miss the huge Gothic cathedral. This incredible piece of work yet again showcases German and French minds uniting.
In true French style, you can imagine that the surrounding areas are also well equipped to deal with huge appetites. When two of the most delicious cuisines combine, the results are quite something. A visit to Strasbourg would be incomplete without flammekueche, or tarte flambée - a thin dough traditionally decorated with crème freche, onions and lardons. Nor would you want to leave without trying the dish of the region, choucroute, which is essentially sauerkraut accompanied by various meats.
When summing up Strasbourg, many would attempt to charterise it as either typically French or German. But it is far better to leave the division between these nations in the past. The blend of German and French culture is a marriage made in heaven, and this combination is what makes Strasbourg so special. It should, therefore, be celebrated rather than picked apart.
Lyon, Monaco and Strasbourg epitomise how contrasting different regions of France can be. Paris is a wonderful starting point, but for a real taste of history, culture and gastronomy it would be a shame not to delve deeper into this vastly interesting country.