So you’re going to France, huh? You lucky lucky thing! You are sure in for a treat because France is, without a doubt, one of the most special travel destinations on the face of the planet. It offers something for every visitor, so whether you are into eating yourself silly, strolling the aisles of world renowned galleries, or lazy beach days.
This article will take you on a journey from the major cities like Paris, Marseilles, Lyon, and Nice, through to places in the hills, countryside, and beaches like Chartres, Corsica, and the Loire Valley.
Take a Romantic Boat Ride on Canal St Martin
The River Seine is, without a doubt, the most famous waterway in Paris, but it is certainly not the only one, and we happen to think that the Canal St Martin is even more charming. The canal was ordered by Napoleon in 1802 as a way to transport fresh water to locals so they wouldn’t get sick, but these days it primarily has an ornamental use, and we think there’s nothing quite as romantic as taking a boat ride on this stretch of water. (Canal Saint-Martin, Paris)
Tuck into the Rosette Sausages of Lyon
For meat lovers on a trip to France, there is much more than hulks of steak with peppercorn sauce, and we love to explore the nooks and crannies of the country to eat delicious regional treats. The Rosette sausages of Lyon are something extra special, in our opinion. This simple sausage is made from pork leg, garlic, salt, and peppercorns, and we think it’s best eaten just as it is on an antipasti platter.
Take in a Ballet at Palais Garnier
As you stroll the streets of Paris, it’s easy to imagine yourself immersed in the pages of a fairytale, and one way to extend the magic is by taking in a show at the Palais Garnier, a theatre that opened in 1875 as a place to stage operas in the city. These days, you are more likely to catch a ballet performance there, and with its capacity to seat 1900 people, we think that it’s one of the grandest and most spectacular arts destinations in Europe.
Visit the World’s Largest Museum, The Louvre
France is such a haven for arts lovers that it would be possible for us to write 101 coolest galleries in the country, let alone all of the other things to do. But in the name of variety, we have had ourselves back, but a guide to France really wouldn’t be complete without mentioning The Louvre, which might
just be the most famous art gallery in the world. In fact, it is the world’s largest museum, containing 35,000 objects from prehistory and up to the present day. From Egyptian Antiquities to Islamic Art to Renaissance decorative objects, The Louvre needs a day of your time at the very least.
Catch a Show at the Festival d’Avignon
If you love nothing more than to spend your free time going to the theatre, you need to know about the annual Avignon Festival, which is one of the most acclaimed performing arts festivals on the face of the planet. Over 40 productions are put on across the month of July, across venues large and small. So whether you want to see a reboot of a Shakespeare classic or a dynamic piece of contemporary dance, there will be something to suit your theatrical tastes at the festival.
Find Something Special at La Braderie de Strasbourg
If you’re a bargain hunter at heart, you would do well to avoid the pricey boutique stores that line the streets of Paris, and instead to find your way to La Braderie de Strasbourg, which is one of the most epic flea markets anywhere in France. This market takes over Strasbourg on the last weekend of July, and over 400 sellers come to show their wares, comprising artwork, antique furniture, awesome vintage clothing, and lots more besides.
Party Hard on a Marseilles Rooftop
Although Marseilles is the second most populated city in France, it is all too often overlooked by tourists. This is very much a student city, and that makes it one of the best places in the country to party the night away. There are many bars and clubs to choose from, and one of the best loved amongst locals is called La Friche. This is actually a cultural centre that used to be a tobacco factory, and it’s beloved because of it’s incredible rooftop bar with stunning views across the city and ocean.
Ascend Europe’s Largest Sand Dune, Dune du Pilat
When you think of places in Europe to frolic in the sand, France might not be the first country that springs to mind, but little did you know that, in fact, the largest sand dune in the continent can be found in France. This dune is almost 3 kilometres long and has a height of 110 metres. It’s possible to climb all the way to the top of the soft sand and then roll all the way back down. Or if you feel like something more exhilarating, you can body board down at a high speed.
Be Transported to Medieval France at Carcassonne
One of the really incredible things about France is that you don’t have to contain yourself to museums to get a feeling for the country’s incredibly rich history, because historic buildings and ruins can be found everywhere. Carcassonne is a place that history buffs will go crazy for. This is a hilltop town in the south of the country, which is famous for its Cite de Carcassonne, a medieval fortress that dates back for centuries and centuries, and the walls were restored in 1853.
Enjoy the Beauty of Parc de le Tete d’Or
One of the loveliest thing about visiting French cities is that although they are filled with a cosmopolitan atmosphere, they are also very green, and Lyon is perhaps the greenest of all the French cities. In fact, the Parc de Tete d’Or is the largest urban park in the whole country, covering an area of 117 hectares. In the park, you’ll find a zoo, a boules court, horse riding, mini golf, and many other attractions.
Sample Some French Fare at Bastille Market in Paris
There’s no doubt that Paris is one of the most magnificent food cities on the
face of the earth, but there is more to the local food culture than fancy restaurants. If you want to eat somewhere that’s more alive, not to mention kinder to the wallet, the open air Bastille Market is a must visit. This is the place where local chefs come to purchase their produce so you know it’s good. We can think of nothing better than grabbing some stinky cheese, crusty bread, and sour olives from the market and heading to the riverbank to eat them.
Have a Snorkelling Adventure Off Corsica’s Coast
When you think of beautiful islands around Europe, you might think of Greek islands like Crete or the islands of Italy like Sardinia. Well, France has its fair share of paradise islands too, and it doesn’t get much more beautiful than Corsica. There are breath taking white sandy beaches on Corsica, but also clear waters to explore. If you feel like having an adventure, snorkelling in the waters of Corsica is a fantastic idea. In the waters you’ll find bream, starfish, congers, moray eels, barracuda, and more.
Discover the Cave Paintings of Grotte de Font de Gaume
If you can tear yourself away from the fromageries and patisseries dotted around France for a hot second, there are also some wonderful historic attractions to be found, and we are talking more than churches and castles. In the Grotte de Font de Gaume, you can look at some of the most incredible prehistoric cave paintings to be found anywhere in Europe. There’s more than two hundred painted or engraved representations of bison, horses, mammoths, reindeer, and more.
Learn About the History of Paris at Carnavalet Museum
If you are a history buff, there is plenty to be explored right across France, and the Carnavalet Museum acts as the local history museum for Paris. The
setting of the museum itself, located across two 16th and 17th mansions, is stunning in itself, and the collection is just as impressive. Inside, you’ll find medieval and Gallo-Roman artefacts, items from the French revolution, sculptures, furniture, paintings, and lots more besides.
Get Decadent With Macarons From Pierre Herme
If you have a sweet tooth, Paris is a city that is not going to disappoint. As you hop from bakery to bakery, be sure not to miss out on the decadent macarons that can be found across the city, and indeed across the country. There is nobody who can make pastries quite like the French God of Sweets, Pierre Herme, and a trip to one of his bakeries is a must. The macarons are light and perfectly balanced, and it’s more than possible to eat a whole box.
Visit a Stunning Royal Chateau, Palace of Fontainebleau
Not everyone is in the position to be able to enjoy a complete trip of France, but even if you only make it to Paris (and let’s face it, that really wouldn’t be so bad) there are still some easy day trips that you can make to explore outside of the city a little. One of the best of these is a trip to the Palace of Fontainebleau. This is one of the largest French royal chateaux, located just around 55 kilometres southeast of Paris. This chateau dates all the way back to the 13th century, and we are particularly enamoured by its French renaissance gardens.
Discover a World of Classic Automobiles at Cite de l’Automobile
If classic cars do it for you, you cannot leave France before you visit the Cite de l’Automobile, a classic car museum that has the largest displayed collection of automobiles in the world, and it specifically has the largest and most comprehensive Bugatti collection. The cars are stunning simply to look at, but the free audio guide will give you a much better idea of the importance of each car in automobile history.
Dance, Dance, Dance at Vieilles Charrues Festival
When you think of countries around the world that are famous for their summer festivals, it is unlikely that France would be the first country that springs to mind. But believe it or not, the French totally know how to throw a party, and if you’re planning a trip to France during the summer months, you need to etch Vieilles Charrues into your itinerary. It is hosted every July in the Brittany region, and previous performers have included Muse, Portishead, and Bruce Springsteen.
Dine on Le Calife, a 5 Star Cruising Restaurant
There’s no shortage of phenomenal restaurants to be found along the streets of Paris, but if you fancy a dining experience with a bit of a difference, Le Calife is something you should know about. This is a floating restaurant that cruises the famous River Seine. But this restaurant is not such a success because of this gimmick, but because the food is truly second to none. If you have the opportunity to order the gingerbread ice cream, do not let it pass you by.
Climb the Tower of Bordeaux Cathedral
Bordeaux Cathedral is a testament to French architecture, and to say that it’s a masterpiece and a labour of love would be an understatement. The construction of the church began in the 12th century, but it wasn’t completed until the 16th century, which means that it took 400 years to complete. Because it took so long, you can see that the walls have mismatching colours. If you’re feeling adventurous, take the steep climb up the cathedral’s tower, where you can view from the city from a vantage point of 50 metres above the ground.