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Five French towns for day trips into Spain, Switzerland and Germany

Walk over the Large Hadron collider or step into a different time zone, we share five places you can stroll from France to a foreign town

Clockwise from left: Hop into Puigcerdà, Spain from Bourg Madame; Tourcoing, Lille; the Rhine separates Strasbourg and Kehl; Monaco; Lake Geneva or Lake Léman as the French call it Pic: joan_bautista / MisterStock / tichr / Samuel Borges / Shutterstock

France has a lot of land borders and while some of them are so mountainous only daredevil explorers would cross them, there are several places where you can take an easy round trip abroad, on foot or bicycle, and be back where you started for teatime. 

The change of language and culture can be refreshing. 

1. Bourg Madame (France) to Puigcerdà (Spain)

A bridge links these otherwise undistinguished towns so that you can have lunch twice at the respective national mealtimes: 12 midday in France and 2pm in Spain. 

Nearby is Llivia, a Spanish town stranded in French territory. 

An alternative way to cross the same frontier is in the Basque Country where Hendaye (France) and Irún (Spain) are also connected by a bridge. 

It’s worth popping into Spain if you like decent coffee and some goods in supermarkets can be a little cheaper.

2. Tourcoing (France: part of the Lille conurbation) to Mouscron (Belgium)

The Lille metropolitan area merges with built-up Wallonia in Belgium where there is a town hall, castle, church and park to visit. 

Don’t expect any dramatic change of architecture or culture but it still makes for a pleasant excursion.

3. Strasbourg (France) to Kehl (Germany)

It’s about 4km from the city centre to the banks of the Rhine and you might prefer to do this trip on a rented bicycle. 

The Passerelle des Deux Rives connects the two halves of a transfrontier park across the Rhine – what could be more symbolic of peace than that. 

Across the river you are in Germany. 

Alternatively, there is another pedestrian and cyclist bridge, the Pont Beatus-Rhenanus, to the north of the main road bridge (the Pont de l’Europe).

4. Across Monaco

It’s not everywhere you can walk across an entire country in a morning or afternoon but the principality is less than 5km from west to east and it’s possible to walk from Cap l’Ail in France through the whole of Monaco and back into France (near the Monte Carlo Country Club) at the other end. 

Start on the Boulevard Charles III and leave by the Boulevard d’Italie and you won’t get lost. 

5. Ferney-Voltaire (France) to Geneva (Switzerland)

The easy access to neutral Switzerland once made it a destination of refuge for French exiles. 

On your walk across the border you pass over the circular particle accelerator, the Large Hadron collider, a tunnel buried over 50m underground. 

Keep going and you strike Lake Geneva or Lake Léman to the French. 

Weirdly, France starts again on the other side of the lake. 

Ferney-Voltaire is named in honour of the Enlightenment philosopher. The house he bought in 1758 is the main sight to see.

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