With an amazing combination of fascinating history, rich culture, world famous gastronomy and stunning nature, France is the quintessential European holiday destination. From the seaside to the ski slopes and from tiny countryside villages to the buzz of the capital, find your ideal holiday tempo with our guide below.
Paris & Ile-de-France
Paris is a destination in itself and many visitors come time and again to take in the diverse pleasures of the French capital. World-class museums, incredible dining and a shopper’s paradise, there’s really something for everyone. It’s a great walking city which allows you to stop to admire curiosities you come across in areas like the Marais or Montmartre, where you duck into boutiques and enjoy a drink on a café terrace. The city’s parks are sublime and the perfect place to rest your feet and people watch, local favorites are the Luxembourg Gardens, Les Buttes-Chaumont and the Parc Monceau. As for museums, the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay are a must for any first time visitors, but try to make time to peruse the collections of some smaller museums like the Jacquemart André, the Gustave Moreau or the Orangerie. End your day with some divine dining, either at an haute gastronomie establishment or a cozy neighborhood bistro.
Beyond the city’s borders, there is a multitude of excellent day trip options. For example, the Ile-de-France region which encircles Paris has dozens of gorgeous castles. The Palace of Versailles usually steals the limelight, however, many others are are much less crowded and highly worth visiting such as Fontainebleau, Vaux-le-Comte, Chantilly and Rueil Malmaison. For a taste of French village life, venture out to nearby medieval towns like Senlis or Provins. Art fans can also walk in the footsteps of artists like Monet in Giverny, Van Gogh in Auvers-sur-Oise or the early 19th-century artist colony at Barbizon.
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Normandy & Brittany
Easily accessible from Paris either by train or car, many visitors travel to Normandy to visit the D-Day landing sites. These are very moving places of commemoration and can be visited in a long day trip or a several day itinerary. The lovely region has deep-rooted cultural heritage and some stunning medieval sites like the Bayeux Cathedral and its amazing 11th-century tapestry. Mont-St-Michel is another regional highlight, the impressive abbey and village crowning an island off the coast. Seaside resorts like chic Deauville and picturesque Honfleur are also key tourist destinations.
Brittany remains slightly removed from the regular tourist track, a factor that has helped it retain its authentic character. Fervently proud of its distinct cultural heritage, the region’s stunning and rugged coastline is marked with sleepy fishing villages, lighthouses, and deserted pristine beaches of the Wild Coast.
Loire Valley & Burgundy
The Valley of the French Kings, dotted with hundreds of enchanting castles, is what French holiday dreams are made of. You can spend your days discovering breathtaking castles such as Chambord, Chenonceau, Amboise and Azay-le-Rideau and your evenings dining on the region’s exquisite gastronomy. To the southeast of the Loire, Burgundy also provides an excellent holiday spot for those seeking to combine culture and gastronomy. It’s abundant in rolling vineyards, charming villages, bustling markets and unique historic sites – all the delights of France in one place. Small barge river and canal cruises are a wonderful way to experience both of these spectacular regions.
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Champagne & Eastern France
The best known destination in the east of France is certain Reims, where people come the world over to sample its delectable bubbly. It’s an easy day trip from Paris and there are many champagne tasting cellars right in the city. True champagne fans will want to stay longer and visit the houses in the neighboring area, especially Epernay. The beautiful cathedral in Reims is not to be missed and other cities of the regional are also lovely, such as Troyes with its medieval city-center. Further towards Germany, Strasbourg, with its charming canals, narrow streets and awe-inspiring cathedral, is a popular destination. It’s also the starting point of the Alsatian wine route, the oldest in Europe.
The French Alps
The French Alps have something for all levels of skier, or those who want to merely take in the chic après-ski vibe. Base yourself at a cozy luxury ski chalet, perhaps in ultra posh Megeve, and get ready to hit the slopes. Les Trois Vallées (The Three Valleys) features the largest interconnected ski fields in the world. Head to Chamonix for a quintessential Alpine experience with majestic Mont Blanc in the background. The French Alps aren’t only a winter destination, summertime also offers a wide range of activities, particularly for sport and nature enthusiasts.
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Provence & the French Riviera
Provence evokes images of lavender fields, hilltop villages and bucolic country estates, it’s the ideal destination for taking in French joie de vivre. While it has grown in popularity over the last few decades, there are still plenty of authentic places to visit. Sip pastis in St Remy, wander the laneways of Les Baux or visit the vibrant markets of Aix. The Riviera is still one of Europe’s most popular beach destinations and the best way to take in the area is on a secluded villa overlooking St Tropez, home to a charming port and picturesque town center. You can also escape the crowds by tracking down some of these hidden beaches across the French Mediterranean coast.
Bordeaux & The Atlantic Coast
France’s southwest is not to be overlooked. Serious oenophiles can spend their entire holiday tasting some of the country’s best wines around Bordeaux. The city itself is lovely, and its new Cité du Vin wine center is an excellent place to start your wine-themed vacation in the area. Saint Emilion is a desirable stop, the scenic medieval village is surrounded by vines that produce some of the region’s best wines. The nearby Bay of Archon and other coastal resorts have splendid beaches of fine white sand and refreshing Atlantic waters. The whole coastline has some gorgeous islands, little discovered by foreign travelers. Ile de Ré attracts wealthy Parisians whereas Belle Ile and Noumentier are also very delightful. The small coastal city of La Rochelle is your gateway to that coastal area and has a number of nice attractions and good shops and restaurants.
More on Where to Stay in Bordeaux and the Atlantic Coast Here.