Thanks to its world-class art, wide variety of architectural styles, enchanting cities and countryside, and fabulous cuisine, France sees more tourists every year than any other country in the world. While Paris is the iconic French city destination, there’s much more to France than this, and there are surprises and adventures waiting around every corner.
Where to Go in France
No holiday in France is complete without at least a day or two in Paris, the City of Light, with its many famous landmarks, art galleries, and historic monuments. Walk along the banks of the Seine, or in the city’s green parks, eat croissants at a French bakery, or simply wander the narrow streets and soak up the atmosphere.
The city and region of Bordeaux is most famous for its wines, but there’s plenty more to discover here. The city is a World Heritage Site, as is another old city, Lyon. These two distinctly different cities nevertheless share much in common, with their long history and many historic sites. In fact, it’s safe to say that most cities and towns in France are themselves historic sites, each worth a visit in its own right.
For the ultimate in luxury holidays, French Riviera destinations such as Cannes, Nice, and St. Tropez are popular playgrounds for the rich and famous set, but are equally popular with the general tourist population too. With sandy beaches, high cliffs, and pretty ocean-side towns and villages, it’s a popular destination for travellers arriving by boat and on land.
And then there’s the French countryside—medieval castles and villages, the Alps and the Pyrenees, the Mediterranean-esque region of Provence, with its endless stretches of lavender fields, and, of course, the wine regions such as Bordeaux, Champagne, and Burgundy. Some of the most beautiful landscapes in Europe—even in the world—can be found here, including the spectacular Verdon Gorge, and the Loire Valley.
What to See and Do in France
- In Paris, there are many must-see landmarks, attractions, and museums, including famous icons such as the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower, and the Louvre Museum, which showcases some of the world’s most famous works of art.
- The Louvre, while it might be the world’s most iconic art museum, is by no means the only important museum in Paris; other art museums include the Musee d’Orsay, which houses a stunning collection of French Impressionist and post-Impressionist art, and Europe’s largest modern art museum, the Musee National d’Art Moderne.
- The Palace of Versailles, located just outside of Paris, is an opulent, breathtaking work of art, with lavishly decorated rooms, each more gorgeous than the last, and the incredible Hall of Mirrors, an unparalleled example of Baroque design.
- Located in the city of Reims, Notre Dame Cathedral may seem somewhat intimidating on the outside, with its immense glowering gargoyles, but the interior is adorned with gorgeous stained glass, and beautiful sculptures that are just as unforgettable as the outside.
- Just outside of the capital city, Disneyland Resort Paris is an immensely popular family attraction, frequented by European families as well as French, and tourists from all over the world.
- France’s national parks include Vanoise, Cervennes, and Pyrenees, each with its own particular attractions. Vanoise is known for its diverse bird population, Cervennes for its cave formations, and Pyrenees, of course, is best known for skiing and mountain-climbing.
- The awe-inspiring Verdon Gorge, located in the Alpes de Haute and Provence regions, is an absolutely incredible sight. Popular with seasoned hikers and climbers, it’s also partially accessible by car. Drive up to Sublime Point for unforgettable views of the gorge and the countryside beyond.
- Known as the Garden of France, the Loire Valley is a gorgeous landscape dotted with historic towns and villages, as well as several wineries. A great place for wine tours, and general sight-seeing, as there are many chateaux to visit in this part of the country.
- Head to the French Riviera not just for the glamour of towns such as St. Tropez and Cannes, but also for its lesser-known attractions, such as Biot, an old walled town famed for glass-blowing and pottery. There are many small towns to explore in this region, including the twin “perched villages” of Eze and Gourdon, situated atop the cliffs overlooking Nice.
- Alsace is home to some of Europe’s most beautiful churches and cathedrals, and is also a popular destination for wine tours. The Alsatian Vineyard Route comprises more than 60 medieval villages dotted over the district, easily accessible on foot and by car.
Need to Know Info for France
The official currency of France is the Euro. The official language is French, and while it’s not uncommon to find people who speak a little bit of English, the French do particularly appreciate tourists who make an effort to learn the basics of the local language.
France’s climate is highly variable, but mild summers and winters are the norm over most of the country. On the Mediterranean coast, summers tend to be hotter, and winters milder, while the southwest typically sees more rainfall than other parts of the country. The mountain regions—including the Alps, Auvergne, and the Pyrenees—are much cooler, with plenty of snowfall in the winter.
France’s primary international airport is Charles de Gaulle in Paris, and most visitors will land here if they’re arriving from anywhere outside of Europe. If travelling from within Europe or the UK, flights to other cities and regions, including Bordeaux, Geneva, Lyon, Marseille, are Nice, operate regularly. As a participating country in the Schengen Agreement, residents of many European countries can enter France without a visa. Otherwise, all foreign nationals require a visa to enter France.
Several domestic airlines fly between major cities and large towns, making it easy to get around the country quickly, when necessary. France has also has a comprehensive intercity rail transport system. In general, hiring a car is useful for travelling outside of cities, but because many of the country’s towns and cities were built well before cars were commonly available, they’re not always practical for driving in. As a result, it’s usually easier to rely on public transport and taxis to get around in cities.