‘France’ the name itself evokes exquisite pictures in mind. With lace-curtained bistros, soaring cliffs, the famous French Riviera, green forests, cultural heritage and architectural gems on one side and the iconic modern capital like Paris, France is a perfect amalgamation of old with new. This magnificent country has been the world’s most visited destination for the past twenty years and it’s easy to answer why. With such vast geographical diversity of France, it’s almost impossible to cover the nation entirely in a few days or months. However, some of the places in France are must-visits. Here’s a France travel guide for you to make the most of your trip to this amazing land of mediaeval castles, soaring cliffs, and lip-smacking pastries among other tourist attractions.
Places to Visit in France
The French capital needs no introduction, nor does it require any amount of convincing to visit Paris. One of the most popular tourist destinations in the world and home to one of the most iconic landmarks in the world, the Eiffel Tower, Paris is the soul of France. With plenty of architectural gems of the past, dazzling cityscape, exhilarating nightlife and a gastronomical paradise, Paris is not just a city but dream of millions. A trip to France cannot be complete without exploring Paris.
Located at a short distance from Paris, Loire Valley is also referred to as the Cradle of the French and the Garden of France due to the abundance of fruit orchards and vineyards. Picturesque and of historical importance, Loire valley was inhabited in middle Paleolithic age and the central part of it has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of the top places to visit in France, Loire Valley will surpass all your expectations from natural beauty to gastronomical delights.
Les Gorges du Verdon
One of Europe’s most beautiful, the Gorges Du Verdon is a 25km long and 700-meter-deep river canyon in southeastern France. With the sheer, jaw-dropping plunging cliffs almost twice the height of the Eiffel Tower, Les Gorges du Verdon offers spectacular views and hiking trails. Along with the mighty cliffs, river’s turquoise water attracts a huge number of tourists to the canyon every year, especially in summer.
An exotic island in the Mediterranean Sea, Corsica is perhaps France’s most alluring terrain with sparkling bays, swanky coastal cities, and excellent beaches along with spectacular valleys, challenging forests, and gorgeous hilltop villages. Home to some magnificent beaches with waxen sand and crystalline turquoise water, Corsican beaches are not to be missed while in France.
One of the most exhilarating, dynamic and vibrant French cities, Bordeaux is famous around the world for its excellent red wine. Also known as the Pearl of Aquitaine (La perle d’Aquitaine) and Sleeping Beauty (La Belle Endormie) Bordeaux is home to the highest number of preserved historical buildings in France after Paris. The old town of the city which is the historical part has been listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
120km north of Paris, Amiens is a city in northern France famous for the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Amiens, the 19th largest church in the world. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Amiens cathedral is France’s most magnificent gothic cathedral as well.
A UNESCO world heritage site and one of the most visited sites in France, Mont St-Michel is also among France’s most recognizable landmarks. The island located at the mouth of the Couesnon River, Mont St-Michel derives its name from a monastery located here. The island gets completely surrounded by the sea when the tidal coefficient crosses the mark of 100 and the high tide goes above 14m. A must-visit destination in France, Mont St-Michel is a perfect amalgamation of nature with architecture.
If you ever wish to experience classic French panache head to Aix-en-Provence or simply Aix. Beautiful leaf-strewn boulevards, gorgeous mansions dated back to 17th- and 18th-century, vintage looking cheery cafes, lively bars and top-class restaurants, Aix has a quintessential French soil that’s hard to forget after experiencing once.
Lakes, mountains, canals, cafes and a stunning Old Town, Pearl of French Alps, Annecy is what dream destinations are all about. Arguably the prettiest town in the Alps, Annecy is so picture-perfect that for once you will not mind the crowd. One of the most popular places to visit in France, Annecy is located beautifully on the northern tip of Lake Annecy, barely 35 kilometers south of Geneva.
France has all major designer stores in almost all big cities. There are tax-free stores as well where you can get things for much cheaper price. However, the real fun of shopping in France is at flea markets. And when it comes to flea markets Paris is your destination. Head to St-Ouen for some of the most exciting things that you can probably find in a market especially antique furniture.
Food & Eating Out
Although France is famous for its gastronomical delights and is known for an excellent dining scene, eating out can be a disappointment if you don’t research well before landing here. Every city in France is full of restaurants and bistros. However, all these places may not serve great food and prices can be a rip-off. The best way is to enquire around and look for a place with standardized menu or head to a place where locals eat.
Also, not all places serve lunch and dinner both. Places serving lunch will open late and accept guests until 1.30. Restaurants serving dinner will start at 7.30pm and allow guests until 9.30pm. Reservations are mandatory or else you can be turned away. Taxes are added to the final bill and bread is added into taxes, therefore, feel free to ask for more. Coffee is served at the end of the meal and people may give you strange looks if you ask for it with the meal. Almost every region in France has a distinct taste and cuisine of its own. Unless you are at a tourist hotspot finding a restaurant opened on Saturdays and Sundays is a big challenge. Breakfast is not an important meal in France and is often light.
Don’t miss dining out in a bouchon in Lyon, the gastronomical capital of France. Bouchon is a type of eatery which serves traditional Lyonnaise cuisine mainly roast pork, sausages, and duck pâté.
France is one of the most visited countries in the world, therefore, there is no dearth of hotels and other lodging options here. Hotels are divided into 5 categories between 1 to 5 stars by the government, basis their facilities, location, and speciality. Hotels near train stations are comparatively tinier with fewer rooms, therefore, booking in advance is a smart move to avoid any last minute glitch.
B&Bs, known as “Chambres d’hôtes” in French are budget accommodation options offering beds on the nightly basis. As per the government rule, breakfast must be included in advertised price, so keep that in mind. Affordable and perhaps the best accommodation options in France, Gites are the holiday cottages with functional kitchens. These cottages are rented out mostly on the weekly basis.
Other lodging options in France include voluntary rural accommodations grouped by a cooperative organization called Gîtes de France, gîtes d’étape – basically a mountain hut meant for hikers and camping which is very common in France.
Metro is the most efficient and easy way to commute in France. However, some basic etiquettes must be followed such as letting the passengers exit first and then board. Renting a car is a popular option but not free from glitches. The car model that you book can differ from the one that finally arrives to pick you up. Don’t accept it if your expectations are not met. Long and short distance trains are also a great way to explore nooks and corners of France. Hitchhiking in France is a terrible idea. Don’t try it. Taxis are easily available.
Points to Remember
Etiquettes are important in France. Loudness in France is frowned upon. Be polite. Ask the shopkeeper before taking an item off the shelf. Avoid sensitive topics and respect people but put your foot down if your requirements are not matched. Remember, France hosts millions of tourists to its land every year and along with the excellent ones, there are plenty of agencies that are not up to the mark. Don’t let these small hiccups spoil your mood and enjoy your trip to France the fullest.