Discover the 'beautiful detours' towns of France
Around 100 towns in France have been classified as attractive detours: towns that are small to medium in size and contain enough historical interest or character that they are recommended places to visit as you are exploring or as you are travelling around.
In French these are called 'Plus Beaux Détours'.
If you go in the tourist office of any of the towns you can also get a guide to all 100 of those listed which is very useful.
We think this is a great idea! Lots of places are interesting to visit without necessarily being major destinations, and we all prefer a nice town centre than a motorway service station! So be sure to take a look along your route before you set off driving and make sure you time your lunch break appropriately!
You might also be interested in the Villages d'etape, which is a similar idea, but based around villages close to main transport links.
Note: there is also a map showing the position of these Scenic Detour towns at the bottom of this page.
List of towns classified as "plus beaux détours" in France
Alsace: recommended detours
Obernai is perhaps the town in Alsace that has best preserved its original 15th century aspect
Close to the French border with Germany, Wissembourg has many sights of interest and is also well placed to explore this area
Aquitaine: recommended detours
Nontron is a quiet town within the Perigord-Limousin Regional Natural Park to the north of the Dordogne
Sarlat is the historic capital of the region, and perhaps the most remarkable and intact historic town in France. Highly recommended!
Auvergne: recommended detours
The quiet town of Ambert in the Natural Regional Park of Livradois-Forez has a small medieval centre to explore
Best known for its romanesque church, Issoire is a very pleasant and unspoiled town to explore
The renaissance style Chateau de la Palice, its internal decorations and its gardens are the main highlight when you visit Lapalisse
Le Puy-en-Velay (Haute-Loire)
The town of Le Puy-en-Velay is very interesting to visit and an important pilgrimage town, as seen in its many religious monuments and statues.
After exploring the town and church in Riom-es-Montagnes be sure to follow one or two of the trails into the Natural Regional Park of the Vocanoes
Although built in rather sombre granite, we found lots of interesting sights in the quiet town of Saint-Flour
Brittany: recommended detours
The extensive medieval centre of the walled town of Dinan ensure its popularity - one of our favourite Brittany towns!
The harbour and the traditional small houses combine to make Paimpol a very interesting town to explore
A town not be missed, Vitré has a superb historic centre with numerous fascinating medieval buildings
Burgundy: recommended detours
Chatillon-sur-Seine (Cote d'Or)
As well as the medieval centre of Chatillon-sur-Seine you can also see the extraordinary Treasury of Vix in the abbey
In the centre of the the traditional local town of Joigny you can see some medieval houses with wood-carvings and some more substantial 17th century townhouses
Champagne-Ardenne: recommended detours
On the border with Belgium, Givet is dominated by the Charlemont Fort and is a lovely place to stroll along the river banks
The highlight in Langres is the chance to follow the 3 kilometres of ramparts - either walking or by tram
Corsica: recommended detours
Probably the most authentic and traditional of the towns in Corsica, Sartene has a myriad of narrow streets to explore
Franche-Comte: recommended detours
Pontarlier is usually visited as part of a trip to enjoy the local scenery and outddor activities, and has several monuments of note
The salt mines at Salins-les-Bains operated from the 13th - 20th century and are now an important local attraction and a UNESCO world heritage site
Languedoc-Roussillon: recommended detours
Beaucaire is well situtaed for exploring the popular towns of Arles, Nimes and Avignon
The small town of Limoux is best visited in late spring to enjoy the Carnival of Limoux, one of the oldest and best known carnivals in France
It is undoubtedly the Saint-Fulcran cathedral that will form the centre of your visit to Lodeve
The quiet regional town of Marvejols has several interesting historic monuments to discover
The wide range of architecture and its unspoiled character make Pezenas one of our favourite towns in the region
Prades makes a pleasant detour when you are exploring the valleys of the western Pyrenees
Limousin: recommended detours
Aubusson is world famous for the rugs that have been produced here during several centuries
Meymac should be beter known to tourists - the stone buildings in the town centre are both attractive and interesting
Saint-Leonard-de-Noblat, with its medieval houses and collegiale church, is a reminder that the town has been an important pilgrimage destination for many centuries
Loire Valley: recommended detours
A small town on the banks of the Loire River, Beaugency squeezes a remarkable number of interesting sights in a small space!
Both the castle and the town along the Loir River make Chateaudun an enjoyable destination
La Chatre (Indre)
La Chatre is a small town and quick to explore - before setting off to discover the other castles and countryside nearby
Numerous historic monuments make the citadel in Loches a very interesting place to visit
The castle and the 11th century Collegiale Notre-Dame are among several sights of importance in Mehun-sur-Yevre
With more than 130 bridges across the numerous canals and rivers in Montargis, it is the scenery along these waterways that is the highlight here
Within the Perche Regional Natural Park, in Nogent-le-Rotrou you can discover the castle and other ancient monuments
The pretty village of Sancerre is best known for the famous wines of the same name produced nearby - and to be samlped in the village!
The castle is the main attraction here, but we also suggest a visit to the Museum de l'Automobile and a stroll along the river
Lorraine: recommended detours
In the upper town of Bar-le-Duc you can find good examples of both medieval and renaissance style houses
The citadel in Bitche is very interesting, with videos explaining the history and sieges of the town
Midi-Pyrenees: recommended detours
The market town of Figeac has many interesting historic buildings and streets to explore - one of our favourite towns in this region
The historic centre of Gaillac and its riverside position make Gaillac a very enjoyable small town to discover
Gourdon (Lot) (Lot)
The golden stone used to build much of the town of Gourdon brings much of its charm, and there are also several pretty small villages close to hand
Lectoure is a pleasant town to explore as part of your stay in the Gascony countryside
The large arcaded square in the centre of Revel contains one of the biggest medieval market halls to be found in France
The 13th century bastide town of Villefranche-de-Rouergue is very much a traditional local town of the region
Nord-Pas-de-Calais: recommended detours
The principal attraction at Gravelines is the fortifications, built by the Spanish in the 16th century and reinforced by Vauban in the 17th century
The historic centre of the fortified town of Montreuil is lovely to explore with lots of cobbled streets and shady squares to discover
Established as a spa centre for more than 2000 years, it is still the spa treatments that attract visitors to Saint-Amand-les-Eaux today
Normandy: recommended detours
Despite extensive war time damage Argentan has retained several sites of interest
The castle forms an excellent backdrop to the cobbled streets in the old town of Domfront
The red-brick castle, built in the 16th century, is the main attraction for visitors to Eu
Granville is best known for its long sandy beach, and the 19th century villas that follow the seafront
There are lots of interesting things to see in Honfleur - if you can drag yourself away from the lovely harbour!
The canals and rivers are the highlight in Pont Audemer, famous for its traditional canalside washouses
Paris: recommended detours
Moret-sur-Loing is a pleasant town with a historic centre close to Fontainebleau
The small town of Provins has retained a great deal of its medieval heritage, making it one of the most interesting towns to visit in the Paris region
Pays de la Loire: recommended detours
With some interesting 18th century townhouses to see, Fontenay-le-Comte is also home to the Chateau de Terre-Neuve
Guerande is one of the most interesting towns in Pays-de-la-Loire, with its medieval fortifications intact and an attractive historic centre
Picardy: recommended detours
Saint-Valery-sur-Somme is one of the nicest towns in the region, especially the area around the harbour with the old fishermen cottages
Poitou-Charentes: recommended detours
We especially enjoyed exploring the castles along the hilltop when visiting Chauvigny
Best known as a spa town Jonzac also has a small castle and other monuments to discover
Provence: recommended detours
Less touristy than many Provence towns, the highlight in Apt is the baroque style cathedral
The scenic village of Grimaud is made even more charming by the many gardens and flowers in the village
The silver mines in L'Argentiere la Bessée, very active in the 19th century, are now reopened as a popular tourist attraction
Pernes-les-Fontaines takes its name from the large number of historic fountains in the town - 40 at last count!
The beaches such as Les Lecques, the forest and the pleasant town make Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer a popular summer resort
On the edge of the Camargue region, Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is a very pleasant coast town well known for its gypsy festival
The citadel is the main attraction in Sisteron, along with the dramatic rocky slope on which it is built
You are spoiled for choice in Vaison-la-Romaine, with substantial Roman remains and also a large medieval centre to explore
Rhone-Alpes: recommended detours
With some of the most extensive medieval ramparts in France, Cremieu also has an interesting historic centre
The castle keep and its views are the most unmissable highlight when you visit Crest
The lively lower town and the narrow streets around the castle in the old town combine to make Noyons a pleasure to visit
While Mont-Blanc and the mountain scenery is the main attraction, Sallanches itself is pleasant to explore
The quiet town of Trevoux in Ain has several historical monuments paying testament to its past importance