Where locals go” is our new series featuring under-the-radar holiday destinations that are often overlooked by visitors but cherished by locals. In this edition, our France experts showcase their favorite holiday spots at home.

We asked three of our correspondents in France for their favorite summer-vacation destinations that are off the typical international tourist trail. Their picks offer a rich and varied cross section of the country, revealing mountain trails, centuries-old architecture, chic coastal resorts and opportunities to explore the countryside via gentle outdoor pursuits.

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People on the beach at Bandol, Côte d’Azur, France
Bandol is a lesser-visited beach town in one of the most visited regions in the world © Westend61 / Getty Images

The fabulous Riviera – without the fuss: Bandol

Daphné Leprince-Ringuet is a travel and tech writer from Paris

Tucked between Marseille and Toulon, away from the crowds of Cassis and La Ciotat, the charming port town of Bandol is nestled among the Côte d’Azur’s rocky inlets, or calanques. A stunning train ride along the coast from Marseille takes you to a region of hidden gems, accessible from a cliffside coastal footpath packed with outstanding photo opps. The dreamy Calanque de Port d’Alon, for example, will draw you in for a refreshing swim. 

The typically Provençal town of Bandol makes for a great stay; if you have a car, though, it is worth considering more remote accommodation options nearer to the calanques, such as Port d’Alon. A 15-minute drive will also take you to Le Castellet, a picturesque medieval town perched in the heights of the Var department. Sit down at Le Pied de Nez restaurant for a taste of local specialties with an exceptional view of the village’s surroundings. 

You cannot leave Bandol without learning more about its most famous product: wine – and local wine bar Le 8.27 offers a wide selection of local cuvées. Be advised you are unlikely to leave without having purchased one (or several) bottles from one of the many neighboring wine merchants.

Aerial view of the Fleckenstein castle in the middle of the forest, Alsace France
Discover sites like the medieval Château de Fleckenstein during a hike through the countryside of northern Alsace © Shutterstock / U. Eisenlohr

Green landscapes and historic sites: northern Alsace

Jean-Bernard Carrilet is a writer, photographer and videographer from Metz, Lorraine 

Alsace is far more than Strasbourg and the well-known Route des Vins (Wine Road). If you’re keen to discover under-the-radar spots in the eastern French region, I recommend northern Alsace, especially the Parc Naturel Régional des Vosges du Nord, an hour northwest of Strasbourg. 

This gentle, unhurried region boasts rolling hills, picturesque lakes, dense forests, meandering rivers, charming villages and hilltop castles. The stunning landscape sets the stage for such outdoor activities as hiking and cycling; the park is crisscrossed by a seemingly endless network of trails winding through wild forests. For the most stunning views, head to Château de Fleckenstein, a red-sandstone medieval pile that teeters at the top of a rocky spur near the German border. 

Art enthusiasts shouldn’t miss the impressive Musée Lalique in Wingen-sur-Moder. This state-of-the-art museum showcases a stunning collection of jewelry, perfume bottles and sculptures adorned with exquisite gems and enamel, all crafted by renowned French art-nouveau designer René Lalique. When I need to relax and recharge, I always make a stop at Zuem Buerestuebel in the mineral spa resort of Niederbronn-les-Bains. It's a traditional winstub (bistro) that serves delicious Alsatian specialties like tarte à l'oignon (onion tart) and grumbeerekiechle (potato pancakes). For accommodation, my top choice in the area is Ferme-Auberge du Moulin des 7 Fontaines, a charming 18th-century farmhouse in a picturesque countryside setting.

Boats at the whitewashed harbour of La Baule, France
La Baule offer charming harbors, miles of sand, boutiques, restaurants and sunsets over the bay © Shutterstock / Vernerie Yann

A slow pace and sea-swept coast: La Baule and the Côte d’Amour

Sixtine Lerouge is a journalist from Paris with a love of train travel

As far back as I can remember, I spent summer holidays under the shade of the pines of La Baule. Nestled just a few miles north of the Loire’s estuary, this charming seaside destination on the Atlantic Coast in France’s northeast is renowned for its 9km (5.5-mile) beach, and the rugged and craggy Côte Sauvage (wild coast) to the west of the bay. Here, hidden among wild grass and cliffs, you’ll discover secluded creeks perfect for unwinding with a novel. 

In this area, you’ll also find numerous hotels, gourmet restaurants and bars. For accommodation, I'd recommend the Hotel Saint-Christophe, near the Place du Marché, and a few meters from the shore. It's a stone villa typical of the area, really charming, with climbing vines around the windows. In the evening, a great choice for food is the Crêperie du Derwin, which offers delicious seafood and crêpes. For a drink, I suggest hopping on a bicycle and pedaling eastward toward Pornichet’s marina. There, you’ll find La P’tite Case, a local gem renowned for its excellent cocktails. Two pleasures I can never resist are spending the morning exploring the market to purchase fresh oysters, and the early evening watching the sun set over the bay.

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