Seven affordable French city breaks with stays for as little as £70 a night, from Nantes to Marseille
As the Rugby World Cup is gearing up to take over the sports scene in September and October, the most popular country in the world will be closely followed by UK viewers. Numerous individuals will be making their way to France to witness the magnificence of the event firsthand. Over 2.6 million tickets have been released, and they are selling out rapidly. As expected during such prestigious occasions, lodging prices in the host cities will be higher than usual, and finding available rooms may prove to be challenging on specific dates.
However, after the tournament, it is expected that prices will decrease. In fact, these seven French cities offer a wide range of affordable experiences and accommodations for this autumn season.
Located slightly away from France's windy Atlantic coast, you can find a highly renowned wine city in France. Begin your day here by savoring a glass of merlot or cabernet sauvignon at the well-established Le Bar à Vin in Bordeaux. This city is also lovingly referred to as "Little Paris" due to its captivating architectural designs. Don't forget to admire the remarkable 18th-century limestone structures that grace the UNESCO-listed city center.
The reflecting pool known as Miroir d'eau is a recent inclusion, and make sure you don't overlook the complimentary art collections like Galerie D.X and Bouillon d'art. Bordeaux has a fairly even terrain, allowing for convenient exploration on a bicycle (available for rent starting at €10 per day at Cool Bike).
How to get there: If you plan on traveling from London, the trip usually takes about five hours and 45 minutes if you take the train. You can start by boarding the Eurostar at London St Pancras International station and heading to Paris Gare du Nord. Once you arrive in Paris, make your way to Paris Montparnasse and catch an SNCF train to Bordeaux St Jean. Another option is to choose one of the many airlines that offer direct flights from different cities in the UK to Bordeaux. Where to stay: When it comes to accommodation, I would recommend Moxy Bordeaux. It is conveniently located near the Cité du Vin and has double rooms available starting from £87. You can book your stay through marriott.com.
The fourth biggest city in France is situated just 10 miles away from the Belgium boundary. The Grand Place, Place Louise de Bettignies, and Rue de la Monnaie are surrounded by stunning Flemish baroque structures from the 17th and 18th centuries.
When selecting your vacation menu, it's important to highlight traditional dishes from the northern region like waffles and moules frites. However, you should also consider exploring the old industrial area of Wazemmes, known for its frequent markets. Here, you can easily find and indulge in delicious specialties from Lille, such as the strong flavored maroilles cheese.
Make sure to explore the vast expanse of lush surroundings spanning across 110 hectares at the Parc de la Citadelle, encircling the majestic stone Citadelle fortress in Lille.
How to reach your destination: You can travel conveniently from London St Pancras International to Lille in just about one hour and 20 minutes via Eurostar. Unfortunately, there are no direct flights available between the UK and Lille. Finding accommodation: If you're looking for a place to stay, you might consider Moxy Lille City, located near the City Hall. They offer double rooms starting at £92, which you can book through marriott.com.
Lyon, a city embraced by two merging rivers and dominated by a shining basilica on a hill, could potentially be the most breathtaking urban gem in France. It would be worthwhile to spend a day strolling across its diverse cityscape. Take in the stunning panoramic views of the Alps from Fourvière Hill, explore the bustling markets lining the riverbanks of the mighty Rhône, wander aimlessly through the secretive traboule tunnels, or meander along the ancient, cobblestone streets of the historic Vieux Lyon.
Visit the Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse market to get acquainted with the culinary heart of France.
How to get to Lyon: If you choose to travel by train, the trip usually lasts approximately five to six hours. There are two options to consider: you can either take a Eurostar to Paris and then transfer to Gare de Lyon, where you can catch a SNCF train to Lyon. Alternatively, you can take the Eurostar to Lille Europe, switch trains and take a SNCF train to Lyon from there. Lyon Part-Dieu is the main train station located in the city center. If you prefer to fly, there are direct flights available from various cities in the UK to Lyon. Where to stay in Lyon: If you are looking for accommodation near the Old Town, consider Hôtel des Artistes. They offer double rooms starting from £86 per night. For more information and bookings, visit their website at hotel-des-artistes.fr.
The sparkling ancient harbor serves as the main attraction when exploring Marseille, however, its slender pathways lead to various captivating districts. Enjoy a cost-effective croissant (maybe even two) and leisurely stroll through the charming cafés in Le Panier, browse the vibrant second-hand markets in Nouilles, or admire the vibrant graffiti in Cours Julien.
The path leading to Notre-Dame de la Garde is quite steep, but the breathtaking panoramic vistas of the Mediterranean coastline from its towering peak, standing at an impressive altitude of 489ft, make the trek entirely worthwhile.
How to get there: The trip from London takes approximately six to seven hours via train. Take the Eurostar to Paris Gare du Nord, switch trains to Paris Gare de Lyon, and finally board a SNCF train to Marseille St Charles. Alternatively, there are direct flights from both London and Edinburgh to Marseille. Where to stay: Consider booking a room at Maison Montgrand, conveniently located near the Old Port. They offer double rooms starting at £70. You can find more information at hotel-maison-montgrand.com.
The magnificent Nantes Cathedral, perched high at a towering height of 192ft, was painstakingly constructed over a period of 457 long years, finally achieving completion in the year 1891. This breathtaking architectural marvel offers a charming starting point for a delightful day in the city. Following that, one must proceed to explore the majestic Château des Ducs de Bretagne castle.
In essence, this city remains true to its Breton identity, making sure to grab a couple of affordable, delightful, and generously filled crêpes along the way. Moreover, a visit to Nantes would not be considered whole unless you witness the peculiar automated steampunk-like beings at Les Machines de l’Île.
How to get there: If you plan to travel by train from London, expect a journey of approximately 5.5-6.5 hours. Start by taking the Eurostar to either Paris or Lille. Once there, make a connection at either Paris Montparnasse or a different platform at Lille Europe in order to board a SNCF train heading to Nantes. Where to stay: Surprenantes, with various accommodations throughout the city, offers double rooms starting at £80. You can find more information on their website, surprenantes.com.
The affluent French Riviera may not be the first destination that comes to mind for affordable vacations, but there are advantages to visiting during the low season. The beautiful stretch of the Promenade des Anglais is a great starting point, and the sights from la Colline du Château encompass the crashing waves of the Mediterranean Sea and the towering Alpine mountains.
Discover the urban art landscape in Villa Arson Art Gallery, nestled discreetly in the northern district of Saint Barthélemy.
How to get there: If you choose to travel by train, it will approximately take 9.5 hours from London. Alternatively, you can opt for a direct flight from London, Manchester, or Bristol to Nice. Where to stay: For an accommodation option near the Promenade des Anglais, you can consider Hôtel Windsor. They offer double rooms starting from £77. You can find more information on their website at hotelwindsornice.com.
The starting point for numerous escapades in France's "Pink City" is none other than the magnificent Place du Capitole. Within the remarkable Capitole edifice lies the extravagant Salle des Illustres, a collection of rooms that can be accessed at no cost and are adorned with captivating artwork from the 19th century, courtesy of the esteemed local artist Henri Martin.
Paintings by Manet, Murillo, and Delacroix adorn the walls of the Musée des Augustins, a medieval museum that does not charge an entry fee. As night falls, the vibrant riverbanks of the Garonne River provide a delightful setting for a leisurely walk.
As the temperature drops, make sure to indulge in a serving of cassoulet – a hearty and budget-friendly stew that's packed with meat, perfect for keeping you warm during the winter months.
Getting to Toulouse is possible by taking an approximately eight-hour train ride from London. If you prefer air travel, there are direct flights available from various cities like London, Bristol, Birmingham, and Edinburgh. When it comes to accommodation in Toulouse, Mama Shelter Toulouse, located near Place Wilson, offers double rooms starting at £72. For more information, you can visit their website at mamashelter.com.