Riverside towns: 7 of France’s ‘Little Venices’ to explore
PUBLISHED: 16:10 25 February 2021 | UPDATED: 16:46 25 February 2021
From the Green Venice to the Venice of the Alps, these waterside towns and villages in France are excellent holiday destinations
On the shores of Lake Annecy is a medieval town brimming with Alpine charm. The so-called Venice of the Alps (Venise des Alpes), Annecy is a patchwork of quaint, shuttered townhouses towering over azure canals. You can while away hours strolling around the cobbled Old Town admiring the beautiful flowers or hire a boat to explore the lake.
The Little Venice (Petite Venise) district of Colmar is the sort of place that adorns the covers of travel magazines and guidebooks. The Lauch river flowing through the quarter is lined by half-timbered houses, many of which are souvenir shops and restaurants perfect for a waterside table with a view.
Come to the Little Venice of the North (petite Venise du Nord) to experience the famous Hortillonnages, Amiens’ floating gardens. Extending over 300 hectares, this urban oasis was once full of market gardeners growing vegetables for the Amiénois. Today, just seven remain and you can seek out their produce at the water market in the Saint-Leu district. Take a trip along the waterways a traditional barque à cornet to see a different side to this northern city.
For an interesting day trip from Marseille, look no further than the Provençale Venice (Venise Provençale). This fishing port sits on the Canal de Caronte, connecting the Étang de Berre lagoon with the Mediterranean. Martigues’ southern charm has inspired artists including Auguste Renoir and Raoul Dufy.
A favourite among antiques enthusiasts, the idyllic town of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue was part of the Comtat Venaissin, a papal enclave from the 13th to 18th centuries. Its nickname, the Venice of the Comtat (Venise Comtadine), is a nod to its past. The River Sorgue encircles the town and once a year, on the first Sunday of August, it hosts the world-famous floating market.
You may well know Brantôme thanks to its magnificent abbey, but did you also know that it is called the Venice of Périgord (Venise du Périgord)? The village sits on an island surrounded by the River Dronne and its narrow streets are perfect for exploring on foot – don’t forget your camera! The abbey, reputed to have been founded by Charlemagne, is a must-visit.
The Green Venice (Venise Verte) is a fitting nickname for the eastern Marais Poitevin, the largest marsh on the Atlantic coast. Peaceful canals criss-cross lush pastures and wetlands, making it the perfect destination for an active family holiday – boating, hiking and biking are all popular pastimes here. Coulon is the main town of the Marais Poitevin and a great base for an adventurous break.
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