The under-the-radar French cities you should visit this year

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For history, swap Poitiers for Limoges

There’s an agreeably relaxed air to Limoges, where the signs in Occitan are a hint of its southern-French-flavoured mellowness. France’s porcelain capital, a designated Ville d’Art et d’Histoire, squeezes many cultural highlights within a compact centre. Start with the Romanesque St-Etienne cathedral where Richard the Lionheart became Duke of Aquitaine in 1169, then drop by the neighbouring Musée des Beaux-Arts. The pretty half-timbered houses of Rue de la Boucherie lead directly to the mouthwatering stalls in Les Halles Centrales.

Book it: Best Western Plus Hotel Richelieu (bestwestern-richelieu-limoges.com) has doubles from €85 (£71) a night.

For a taste of Brittany, swap Rennes for Nantes

Nantes has kept its Breton soul despite not being part of Brittany since the mid-20th century. So feast on superior seafood and crêpes while exploring this arty city on the western reaches of the Loire. The 10-mile Green Line walking route is an excellent way to get to know this inventive city: you’ll pass heaps of public art, the sprawling castle of the dukes of Brittany, riverside green spaces and the hugely entertaining Machines de l’Ile, with its massive mechanical animals and steampunk-style giant carousel. You won’t be surprised to hear that Jules Verne was born here, and his former house is an engrossing museum.

Book it: Zozo Hotel (zozohotel.fr) has doubles from €109 (£91) a night.

For medieval charm, swap Toulouse for Montauban

Like Toulouse, its neighbour to the south, Montauban is a rose city of arcaded medieval squares and southern warmth, but on a smaller and more intimate scale. Place Nationale, founded in 1144, is its rosy heart, a square of pink arcaded townhouses around a cobbled square of café terraces. Walk to the River Tarn to see the 17th-century bishops’ palace that showcases Montauban’s artistic sons, Jean-Auguste-Dominque Ingres and the sculptor Emile-Antoine Bourdelle.

Book it: L’Abbaye des Capucins Hotel Spa & Resort (abbayedescapucins.fr) has doubles from €99 (£83) a night.

source : telegraph uk

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