As the most popular tourist destination for the last twenty years, France welcomes more than 82 million tourists each year! It’s easy to be seduced by the bright lights of Paris, but a trip to France has so much more to offer tourists. Visitors are attracted by the excellent beaches in the French Riviera and Corsica, the winter sporting opportunities in the Alps, the castles in the Loire Valley, Brittany and Normandy and the rich culture with some of the most celebrated food and wines. So before you plan your next trip, read our guide to exploring all corners of this foodie heaven.
Start your journey in the capital of love. Historic figure Napoleon Bonaparte played a major role in the development of Paris as we know it today. His mission to make the capital the most beautiful city in the world lead to him commissioning the building of the Place Vendome Column and the Arc de Triomphe (celebrating his military success). Imagine the Champs Elysees without the iconic arch.
Wander the streets of the City of Lights and appreciate the architecture and the perfectly manicured gardens like the Tuileries. Visit a patisserie and grab yourself a macaron and croissant to enjoy on the bank of the Seine. Head to the 14th arrondissement for the best baguettes and find the local cheese at the market.
A visit to the museums is also a must for all art lovers even if you can only see the crowds surrounding the Mona Lisa. The Musée D’Orsay picks up right where the Louvre left off with works dating back to 1848 going right up to 1915. It houses the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist works.
Paris is also the ideal vantage point to plan a few day-time excursions to surrounding towns.
The discovery of the methode cap classique better known as champagne, in the north east Champagne region of France, made the region world famous. Located a mere hour and a half’s drive from Paris, Champagne can easily be covered in a day trip. Most of the notable champagne houses like Dom Perignon, Veuve Clicquot and Krug offer champagne tastings in the region. When booking a tour, make sure that it includes a visit of a smaller independent winery for more affordable bottles and includes a trip to the Cathedral of Reims also located in the region.
Cave paintings in Dordogne dating back to the Palaeolithic era prove that France has been inhabited since approximately 18 000 BC. The UNESCO World Heritage recognised Lascaux Caves in the region offer visitors some insight into the lives of these people with paintings depicting various large animals. Although the original caves have been closed to the public since 1963 visitors can have a look at the replicated paintings in a cave close by.
The Normandy beaches where the D-Day Invasions took place during the Second World War remains a popular tourist attraction. The nearby cemeteries honouring the fallen brave are a popular site to pay your respects.
Moving away from the sombre mood, Normandy is also famous for its cheeses and the Mont Saint Michel, an island commune dating back to the eight century AD.
The small town Giverny is home to Impressionist Monet’s beautiful home and gardens. He specifically planted and constructed his gardens for his art. Draw inspiration from his home and dreamy gardens which have now been converted into a museum. Monet’s presence also drew other notable Impressionists which lead to the opening of the Museum of Impressionism Giverny.
Immerse yourself in France’s history by spending a few days in a medieval walled city like Avignon or Carcassonne. Spend an evening there inside the city walls and wake early to stroll the narrow streets in search of the town bakery. Let your senses guide you!
For all the action junkies out there the French Alps have some of the most famous ski slopes. A resort like the one close to Combloux is ideal for first time skiers with a ski school and rental services to make it easier.
Moving down south you’ll find beautiful coastal stretches on the French Riviera. What was once the playground of the rich and famous has now become accessible to everyone. The pebble beaches of Nice and Cannes have been drawing large groups of sunbathers and Europeans longing for warm coastal stretches. You’ll also find several art museums in the area including honouring the likes of Picasso and Matisse.
For a unique experience take a short day trip to Grasse, the world’s perfume capital. Even before you can see the fields your nose will give it away. Don’t leave without visiting the Fragonard Museum where you can buy designer fragrances at a fraction of the price. You can also make your own fragrance at some of the manufacturers starting from picking the flowers right down to choosing the bottle.
Whether you want to ski in the French Alps, visit the pebble beaches in the south, relive history in the north or eat your way through the country there really is something attractive for everyone.