Don’t miss these unforgettable experiences when you visit France

France is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, but there is much more to see and do than the usual attractions. If you want to discover some hidden gems and off-the-beaten-path activities, here are 10 suggestions for your next trip to France.

Swim in a cool pool at Piscine Pontoise

Paris has many beautiful and historic swimming pools, but one of the most charming is Piscine Pontoise, an Art Deco gem that opened in 1924. The pool is flooded with daylight from a glass roof, and illuminated by underwater lights at night. You can swim until midnight on weekdays, or join a water aerobics class. The pool is located near Notre Dame cathedral and the Jardin des Plantes, so you can easily combine it with some sightseeing.

Explore an unknown Asian Art Museum at the Musée d’Ennery

If you love Asian art, you will be amazed by the Musée d’Ennery, a hidden treasure that reopened in 2012 after a complete renovation. The museum was once the home of Clémence d’Ennery, a passionate collector who amassed over 7,000 pieces of Chinese and Japanese art from the 12th to the 19th centuries. The museum displays her collection in its original setting, with exquisite porcelains, ivories, carvings, and furniture filling every corner of the elegant mansion. The museum is only open two Saturdays a month, and you need to book in advance.

Visit a Parisian salon at Salon des Vins et Vignerons Indépendants

If you are a wine lover, you will not want to miss the Salon des Vins et Vignerons Indépendants, a biannual event that brings together more than 500 independent winemakers from all over France. You can taste wines from every region, learn about their production methods, and buy bottles directly from the producers. You will also find gourmet food stalls, cheese makers, and charcuterie vendors to pair with your wine. The salon is held in November and March at the Porte de Versailles exhibition center.

Walk along an abandoned railway at La Petite Ceinture

La Petite Ceinture, or Little Belt, was a railway line that circled Paris in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was used for passenger and freight transport until it became obsolete with the advent of the metro and the car. Today, the railway has been transformed into a series of urban green spaces, where you can walk, bike, or picnic along the tracks. You can access different sections of La Petite Ceinture from various points in Paris, and enjoy the nature, street art, and history of this unique place.

Hunt for bargains at Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen

The Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen is the largest and oldest flea market in Paris, dating back to the 19th century. It is actually a collection of 15 different markets, each with its own specialty and atmosphere. You can find everything from antiques, furniture, art, books, clothes, jewelry, and curiosities. The market is open on Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays, and attracts both locals and tourists looking for treasures. You can also enjoy some live music, street food, and cafes in the area.

Discover an underground world at Grotte de la Salamandre

The Grotte de la Salamandre is one of the most spectacular caves in France, located in the Gard department near Avignon. The cave was discovered in 1965 by speleologists who were amazed by its size and beauty. The cave is open to visitors since 2013, and offers different ways to explore its wonders. You can take a guided tour on foot or on an electric train, admire the stalactites and stalagmites illuminated by colorful lights, or even try some aerial activities like zip-lining or abseiling.

Experience a medieval festival at Provins

Provins is a medieval town in the Seine-et-Marne department, about an hour from Paris by train. The town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and preserves its historic architecture and atmosphere. You can visit the ramparts, the towers, the churches, and the underground tunnels that date back to the Middle Ages. You can also enjoy some cultural events and shows, especially during the summer, when the town hosts a medieval festival with knights, jugglers, musicians, and craftsmen.

Learn to cook French pastries at la Cuisine Paris

If you have a sweet tooth, you will love La Cuisine Paris, a cooking school that specializes in French pastries. You can learn how to make classics like croissants, macarons, éclairs, crêpes, and more, with the guidance of professional chefs. You will also get to taste your creations and take home the recipes. The classes are held in English and French, and cater to all levels of experience. The school is located near the Hotel de Ville and the Seine river, so you can enjoy the views while you bake.

Attend a classical music concert at Sainte-Chapelle

Sainte-Chapelle is a Gothic masterpiece that was built in the 13th century by King Louis IX to house his collection of holy relics. The chapel is famous for its stunning stained glass windows that depict scenes from the Bible. The chapel also hosts regular classical music concerts that enhance its beauty and acoustics. You can listen to works by Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart, and other composers performed by talented musicians in a magical setting. The concerts are usually held in the evening, so you can admire the windows as they glow with the sunset.

Go horseback riding in Camargue

Camargue is a natural region in southern France, where the Rhône river meets the Mediterranean sea. It is known for its diverse wildlife, especially its white horses, black bulls, and pink flamingos. One of the best ways to explore Camargue is on horseback, as you can get closer to nature and experience the local culture. You can join guided tours that take you through marshes, beaches, forests, and villages. You can also learn about the traditions of the Camargue cowboys, who herd the bulls and horses with skill and grace.

ENS Editors

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