You may have seen Paris, and you may have seen Barcelona… but what about all the other charming, picturesque town scattered around France and Spain just waiting to be discovered and explored? Big cities full of action are far from all these two beautiful countries have to offer, so while you’re taking in the beautiful scenery zooming past the mountains on your Renfe-SNCF high speed train trip, here are some other destinations to surprise yourself with during your travels...
Located around 28 km northwest of central Paris, Auvers-sur-Oise was house and home to many famous artists, such as Camille Pissarro, François Daubigny and the place where Vincent Van Gogh spent his last days before committing suicide. Protected by French law due to both its history and natural beauty, the little village looks astonishingly similar to back in the 1800 when Van Gogh lived there, and is promised to stay the same for many more years to come.
You can participate in guided tours that take you through the streets, or venture through them on your own. You may even recognize many of the places and garden from some of Van Gogh’s paintings. As well as Vincent’s home and his grave which lies next to his brother’s, there are other sites to be seen, such as Daubigny’s house which is now a museum dedicated to his work, and the château de Leyrit, which dates back to the 17th century.
With over 2000 years of history and culture to see, Senlis is the perfect place for some quaint, historic and educational sightseeing. The village is located on the river Nonette, and in the heart of the forests of Chantilly and Ermenonville, providing it also with an incredible feel of nature and greenery.
Whether you prefer visiting the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Senlis, walking the Gardens of the Royal Palace or the park of one of the many chateaus or strolling past the Saint-Vincent Abbey and medieval city walls, Senlis will offer you as much as you wish to see.
Along with several highly recommended restaurants specializing in French delicacies, Senis is the perfect place for a weekend away or day trip during your spectacular trip to Paris. It is located more or less 40 km north of Paris, and takes about an hour to reach by train.
About a 2 hour drive from Lyon, Beaune is also known as the wine capital of Burgundy. The town is located near the Côte d’Ôr hills, and surrounded by some of the most famous wine villages in the world. Its roots date back to the first century AD, when a roman fort was built where the town would come to be centuries later. Its Roman characteristic still remain, although influenced by all kinds of buildings and architecture from the medieval and renaissance periods.
While not blessed with as many famous sights as other cities in France, such as the Cathar Castles of Carcassonne, what Beaune is famous for is without a doubt its wining and dining, with fine, high-end markets, wine cellars and restaurants.
Its perfect condition for wine and vineyards stems from its fertile ground and green nature, with a beautiful canal to complete the picture-perfect setting. Bike trips through the vineyards, cruising down the canal and hiking the surrounding mountains are just some of the nature-related activities Beaune has to offer.
This charming and enchanting little town is an iconic sample of the Catalan middle ages. With its beautiful bridge and river, winding cobblestone streets and exquisite medieval architecture, its ambience with transport you back in time. There are many sights to explore, as well as cosy, rural boutiques and delicious restaurants. Take some pictures on the river back of the Pont Vell (the Old Bridge), the Casa Cornellà, known to be one of the best preserved roman buildings of all of Catalonia, dating back to the 12th century, or the Sant Pere Monastery. The town has worked tirelessly to preserve and cherish each and every detail of its age-old heritage, ensuring that every building is protected - making things as banal as a hospital or a storefront an artistic architectural masterpiece.
For nature lovers, just next to Besalú lies one of the only areas in the Iberian Peninsula of volcanic terrain, with over 20 lava flows and 40 volcanic cones, and dozens or walking routes.
Besalú is located just under 40km away from Girona, and can easily be reached by bus or car in under an hour.
Tossa de Mar, Barcelona
Tossa de Mar, Barcelona
Slightly more touristic than Besalú, Tossa de Mar is located right on the Catalonian coast, the Costa Brava, and offers an array of places to see and things to do to any visitor who finds their way to its little corner of Spain. With an open-air museum showing off pre-historic remains, the town offer a history lesson from not only the Paleolithic Era, but from the Roman and Medieval Periods, and the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries alike. The striking, grandiose ancient castle settled right on the cliff against the stunning Mediterranean Sea and Tossa’s exquisite beaches makes for breathtaking scenery and all but unbelievable pictures.
Whether you prefer relaxing and soaking up the sun on a picturesque, crystal clear beach, exploring and discovering the ancient history and cultural as well as architectural sights, or even taking the time to hike and get in touch with nature on the pine-covered cliffs, Tossa de Mar is a perfect place to escape from the hustle-bustle of everyday lives and big, busy cities. It is located around 45 minutes South of Girona, and about an hour and a half northeast of Barcelona.
Located about an hour outside of central Madrid, Cercedilla, while not the most popular tourist destination in Spain, is an amazing place to get back in touch with nature and more adventure-type activities, as well as experiencing a true, uncensored or glamoured Spanish lifestyle.
Although also featuring some roman bridges and ruins, Cercedilla is most famous for its location on the Guadarrama Sierra, and its proximity to the National Park of the Guadarrama Sierra.
This makes it amazing place for stunning views and innumerous hiking tracks. If hiking isn’t quite to your taste, but would like to explore nature in its purest form, there is also a train, the “Tren de la Naturaleza” (directly translating to “The Nature Train” that runs around the mountains twice a week during the summer months. During summer, the town also features an amazing natural swimming pool, which is manmade, but filled with natural water running down from the mountain’s streams and rivers.
So get your adventure mind set in place, your walking shoes on and your camera charged, and book your Renfe-SNCF en Cooperación train tickets today!