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Is there a town like Nice or Cinque Terre in Southwest France or near Barcelona?

Hi all,

Still helping my college daughter plan her 11-day Fall Break trip :)

They depart Florence for the Bernese Oberland next weekend. Yes, it looks like rain and even snow. From there they are making their way to Paris to see classmates and then eventually onto Barcelona to see classmates. They've all been to Paris and Barcelona before so really want to squeeze in someplace they haven't been.

They love to hike and go to the beach, hang at cafes and such. They LOVED Cinque Terre and Alpe di Siusi; did not love Verona.

Is there a town between Paris and Barcelona that they go to for two nights that would give them a bit of a warmer weather experience? Nice seems young, full of people and has nightlife. I thought about Collioure or Cadaques - I know nothing about them other than they are in Rick's books. They could fly to Sevilla but that seems as out of the way as Nice seems.

I'd love any thoughts.

Posted by
2283 posts

I'd recommend looking at Tossa de Mar, a very atmospheric coastal town on the Costa Brava, about 1 hr north of Barcelona. Tossa has this idyllic medieval setting as it is dominated by a clifftop castle and a small cobblestone old town. Many cafes and boutique hotels around there, can get quite packed during the high summer months, but should not be that problem in Autumn. There is also a very good costal hiking path near Tossa called the Camino de Ronda (https://www.spain.info/en/hiking-trails/cami-ronda-costa-brava/)

I used to spend my summers in Tossa growing up, so it is very near and dear to my heart.

Posted by
2439 posts

Tossa de Mar is a great idea. Collioure works as well. Cadaqués is harder to get to, and very tiny, not sure it makes sense as a stopover.

Posted by
2308 posts

If they like Nice, they might enjoy Biarritz. Although I don't know what the town is like in October.

On the Mediterranean coast, I'd say don't rule out Marseille. Even if it is a larger city.

Posted by
4385 posts

Montpellier is a fabulous college town in southern France (I studied there in college) with cafes galore and the beach is very accessible. They could visit Sete, Aigues-Mortes, Nimes.

Posted by
7728 posts

True Emily and it's 3.5 hours to both Paris and Barcelona, (but only 2 TGV direct to Barcelona a day).
You can get to Nîmes and Sète right now by local TER train. Aiguë Morts takes 2 hours right now bc the summer bus isn't running and you have to go via Nîmes. Lots of people rent bikes to ride the path to and along the beaches. It's a real happening town. Very dynamic.

Posted by
583 posts

Awesome! A couple more questions:

Would Sete be good to stay in overnight?

Is there a particular part of Montpellier that is better to stay in?

Someone mentioned St Tropez but I don’t see a train station there. Is there one?

Posted by
259 posts

Going from Paris, they might think about Hossegor, the surfing capital of France and the town with the most Australians in France, not that anybody is looking for Australians in France (other than maybe other Australians) but it gives an interesting atmosphere to the town. Bayonne or Biarritz are also good as real cities.

I also think that Tossa de Mar is a nice place. There is nothing special about it but it is quite nice and tranquil just for that reason.

Posted by
49 posts

There is nothing like the Cinque Terre on the Riviera, but there are many smaller towns that are charming and offer a good mix of hiking, beaches etc. You just have to determine what mix of activities you want. Once you get west of St. Tropez, things get smaller, very charming, and uncrowded. They also get cheaper and quieter... perhaps too much for young folks. For hiking, you can stay in a sea side town and use the excellent system of littoral paths that most communities along the cote D'Azur have to offer. In many cases, these are converted rail lines. In others, they are walks along the season (e.g. Sentier du Littoral in Boulouris/ St. Raphael). There is more hard-core hiking in the canyons of the back-country (e.g. Gorges Du Verdon... check it out), but you have to get there and it takes planning and time with public transportation.

As you get closer to Spain, you also get a lot of point-to-point hiking as you get part of the St. Jean De Compostelle network of trails and gites.

Again, it all depends what you want. St.Tropez (there is TER train + bus service there from Nice via St. Raphael, as well as ferry service) is very charming, but it is also the playground of the rich and famous and lodging is likely to be very expensive compared to other locales. But it is charming. There is a littoral path there too.

Smaller towns, such as Rayol-Canadel-sur -Mer for example, are much smaller and in many ways more charming. Rayol, in particular has gorgeous beaches and cystal clear water, and also has miles of hiking paths, both flat and strenous ascents. It just doesn't have a town like St. Tropez, Ste. Maxime, or Le Lavandou (the nearest larger town to Rayol).

In view of all this charm, I cannot recommend bigger cities like Nice or even Cannes, as they are crowded and noisy. And Marseille is no-go... it remains a dangerous and gritty city. Toulon remains very French and is more charming than the others, but it too is gritty. Lots to choose from.

Posted by
19217 posts

St.-Tropez is the only big-name place along the Riviera with no train station. There is bus service, but with all the other options, I don't know of any reason to choose St-Tropez.

I day-tripped to Sete a few years ago and enjoyed an afternoon walking around. It turned out there was a photography exhibition in town at multiple (indoor) locations, so tracking all of those down kept me occupied, and I got to explore the atmospheric streets near the water along the way. You see a lot of private boats docked, but the town itself was pretty quiet at the time of my visit, which was on a Sunday in early June, 2017. I wonder whether a larger place like Montpelier would be a better choice for sheer liveliness, especially at this time of year. I'd think its being a university town would be a major plus, though the city didn't feel very "coastal" to me.

I wonder whether a lot of the smaller places could be pretty dead at this time of year.

Posted by
7728 posts

I wouldn't stay in Sète, but the historic center neighborhood of Montpellier. I just met up with a couple ( she posts here) who reserved at Hotel du Palais, and they said it was nice, but I know they reserved a while ago.
It really is a happening town full of young people, museums, cafes, restaurants, great shopping, and monuments. And then there's the bike rentals to go on the bike paths to the coast. It's not in the blue and yellow book, so shhh.

I second Collioure. It's still vibrant this time of year. You can get the local Spanish commuter train to Barcelona nearby.

Posted by
583 posts

I think they are settled:

Lauterbrunnen
Colmar
Paris
Barcelona

They will take trains everywhere via a 4-day Global Mobile Eurail Pass for $218 and then fly back Florence from Barcelona!

Posted by
583 posts

I think they would like Montpellier. I was even thinking of Arles to give them a taste of Provence. They are traveling train everywhere which makes some of these charming small towns difficult to get to since they only have 10 nights.